Foreign ministers/secretaries of state from China, France, Germany, the European Union, Iran, the United Kingdom and the U.S.A. announce the Iran nuclear deal in July 2015. PHOTO: Iran Talks/Wikimedia Commons
By Rignam Wangkhang
Rezaian, a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, had been convicted in October 2015 on trumped-up charges of espionage during closed-door hearings by the Iranian government, and sentenced to a prison term of unspecified length. The intelligence department of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard and the Iranian government considered Rezaian an “American spy,” and accused him of providing information to the American government. The trial was openly denounced as a “sham” by the Washington Post—between his arrest in July 2014 and sentencing in November 2015, the court failed to produce any evidence against him.
Strong international support advocating for Rezaian’s release continued throughout his detainment from press freedom and advocacy groups, the Washington Post and the U.S. State department. Although we are thrilled by his release, CJFE is concerned by the use of wrongly detained journalists such as Rezaian as bargaining chips; he was one of four Americans released in a prisoner swap deal between Iran and the U.S. that freed seven Iranians and was tied to a new nuclear sanctions agreement.
While Iran has made repeated promises to respect and improve press freedom and freedom of expression, concrete steps have yet to be taken and the human rights conditions in the country are deteriorating. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists’ prison census, Iran was the second worst jailer of journalists in 2014, and ranks 173rd out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index. 18 journalists and prisoners of conscience currently remain imprisoned in relation to their work, including Canadian permanent resident and filmmaker Mostafa Azizi, who is in the same prison as Rezaian under an eight-year sentence for posts he made on social media.
CJFE urges the Iranian government to take immediate action to ensure press freedom is guaranteed in the country, and prisoners of conscience are released without having to rely on international nuclear agreements.
Rignam Wangkhang is CJFE’s Campaigns and Advocacy Officer.