The crime of practicing journalism

I write a lot about Iran and the nuclear deal, and though I try not to let that writing shade into a defense of Iran’s generally awful government, I’m sure it happens from time to time, especially when I’m responding to whatever belligerent nonsense the “Bomb Bomb Iran” camp has put out. But let’s be clear: what the Iranian government is doing to Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian is disgusting. Today, a scant nine months after throwing Rezaian in Evin Prison (where you can be sure he’s not being treated well), the judiciary finally got around to announcing, vaguely, what the charges are:

Iranian authorities are charging The Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief, Jason Rezaian, with espionage and three other serious crimes, including “collaborating with hostile governments” and “propaganda against the establishment,” according to his lawyer in Tehran.

Providing the first description of the precise charges against Rezaian since his arrest nine months ago, the lawyer said that an indictment alleges Rezaian gathered information “about internal and foreign policy” and provided it to “individuals with hostile intent.”

“Gathering information ‘about internal and foreign policy'” is known in certain contexts as “being a journalist,” though I grant you that the concept of press freedom is probably pretty unfamiliar in a country that doesn’t have any. As far as is known, since the court that will hear Rezaian’s case still hasn’t released the full charges against him, “individuals with hostile intent” probably refers to his bosses at the Washington Post.

Rezaian’s judge is Abolghassem Selavati, one of six Iranian judges whose harsh treatment of suspects has earned them individual condemnation from international human rights organizations, so nobody should expect things to get better for him, unfortunately.

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