Since he was detained by Iranian security services late last month, Washington Post correspondent Jason Rezaian has been the subject of a sustained campaign in the conservative Iranian media, which has accused him of spying, following improper Twitter accounts and directing a controversial video, Al-Monitor reported Wednesday.
Iranian security officials arrested Rezaian and three other journalists, including Rezaian’s wife and The National correspondent Yeganeh Salehi, from their homes in Tehran on July 22. Iran has since released one of the detained. Rezaian is a dual U.S.-Iranian citizen, as were two of the other journalists. Salehi is an Iranian citizen and is in the process of applying for permanent U.S. residency. Iran does not recognize dual citizenship.
Iranian officials confirmed the journalists’ detention three days later on July 25. The journalists have yet to be formally charged with a crime. The U.S. State Department denounced the detentions, but has no formal diplomatic relations with Iran. On Tuesday, State Department Spokesperson Jen Psaki told The Washington Post that the U.S. had no new news on the jailed journalists.
The latest allegations, published in recent days in Iran’s conservative-aligned media, accuse Rezaian of a slew of spurious charges, including having relationships with Washington-based organizations that Iranian officials dislike.
One article accused Rezaian of directing the Pharrell-inspired “Happy” video that went viral and led to the arrest of six youths in May, Al Monitor reported. Another article denounced Rezaian’s Twitter use and raised suspicion that he was following “the members of the neoliberal media lobby in BBC, CNN, Huffington Post, Washington Post, Al-Monitor, NIAC and Aslan Media.” The articles also cited outcry in the U.S. over the detentions as further proof of sedition.
The National, a Dubai-based newspaper, has been comparatively silent on their correspondent’s detention. On Wednesday, the newspaper published what appeared to be the paper’s first report on Yeganeh’s ordeal.
“We don’t believe they could in any way be construed as anti-Iranian, nor have they dealt with sensitive security matters,” The National’s editor-in-chief Mohammed Al Otaiba told the paper. “We sincerely hope that Yeganeh is being well-treated and that she is released soon. We want her back doing what she does so well: reporting on a country that she loves.”
Many have criticized Iranian President Hassan Rouhani — who cast himself as a pragmatic moderate in support of loosening Iran’s media controls — for remaining silent on the detentions. Other analysts have argued that these arrests reflect a tense standoff between Rouhani and Iran’s hardline conservative who control much of the judiciary and police and oppose Rouhani’s relative openness with the West.