Release of Washington Post Reporter Won’t Close the Book on Free Expression in Iran
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PEN America Continues to Press for Human Rights in Islamic Republic
NEW YORK—The release of Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian announced on January 16, 2016, as part of a prisoner swap with Iran is a triumph for American diplomacy, but must not close the book on the United States’ efforts to improve the dismal situation for journalists, writers, artists, and others who face peril for the exercise of their rights to free expression in the Islamic Republic, PEN American Center said in a statement today.
Rezaian is one of four Americans freed as part of a prisoner swap in exchange for seven Iranians who had been indicted or imprisoned in the United States for sanctions violations. The announcement of the prisoner swap coincided with the confirmation from the UN’s International Atomic Energy Agency that Iran is in compliance with its obligations under the July, 2015 nuclear deal to restrict its nuclear program. Rezaian departed from Tehran on Sunday, January 17, with two of the three other freed Americans.
“Jason Rezaian’s release marks the end of a terrifying and prolonged ordeal for Jason, his family, colleagues at The Washington Post, and hundreds of news editors, correspondents, and writers in the United States and around the world,” said Suzanne Nossel, executive director of PEN America. “But Washington must deliver a clear message that writers, artists, and journalists must not be used as pawns in high-stakes international disputes. As we celebrate Jason’s homecoming, we need to redouble pressure on Tehran to uphold the rights of Iranian writers, poets, filmmakers, and journalists who face arrest, long prison terms, and harsh punishments including floggings for expressing their opinions and creating works of literature and art.”
Rezaian, his wife, and a photographer were arrested on July 22, 2014 after Iranian authorities stormed Rezaian’s home. His wife and the photographer were released in the months to follow, but Rezaian was held in Iran’s Evin prison—notorious for torture of political prisoners—for over a year, much of it in solitary confinement. A citizen of both the United States and Iran, he was tried on unfounded charges of espionage and related crimes on May 26, 2015, and details about the conviction and sentencing were kept mostly secret.
Iran is among the world’s worst free expression offenders. At least 19 journalists are currently imprisoned in Iran alongside scores of other writers, bloggers, artists, human rights defenders, and other political prisoners.
Founded in 1922, PEN American Center is an association of 4,300 U.S. writers working to breakdown barriers to free expression worldwide. www.PEN.org