Washington Post Reporter Remains Held in Iranian Prison for a Year

Originally published on July 22, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Arrested one year ago on espionage and propaganda charges, Washington Post reporter Jason Rezaian remains imprisoned as his trial continues in a closed Iranian court. An infamous judge known for committing human rights abuses presides over his trial and has only permitted Rezaian to consult with his defense attorney once since his arrest. The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) sent a letter on Monday to the head of the Iranian judiciary requesting the immediate release of Rezaian, while the U.S. State Department has called for the release of Rezaian and three other Americans detained in Iran.

Born and raised in Marin County, California, Rezaian worked as a journalist in San Francisco before moving to Iran and later becoming The Washington Post’s Tehran correspondent in 2012. On the evening of July 22, 2014, Iranian government security forces raided Rezaian’s home in Tehran and arrested the Washington Post bureau chief and his wife, who was also a journalist. After two and a half months in prison, Rezaian’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi, was released on bail on October 6, 2014, but is prohibited from discussing the case against her husband and barred from leaving the country.

Charged with espionage, collaborating with hostile governments, propaganda against the establishment, and allegations that he gathered information about internal and foreign policy, Rezaian remains in custody at Evin Prison, a detention center in Tehran known for housing intellectuals and political prisoners. Initially denied access to his blood pressure medication and held in solitary confinement for several months, Rezaian’s mental and physical health continues to deteriorate while enduring frequent interrogations and psychological abuse. According to his family, Iranian officials have taunted Rezaian with the possibility of freedom but have repeatedly taken it away from him.

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Over Two Dozen Witnesses and Suspects Mysteriously Die in Indian Cheating Scandal

In this Wednesday, March 18, 2015 photo, Indians climb the wall of a building to help students appearing in an examination in Hajipur, in the eastern Indian state of Bihar. Even with police presence, parents and relatives are reported to scale building walls in order to pass notes to help students cheat in their exams. (AP Photo/Press Trust of India)

Originally published on July 8, 2015, at NationofChange.org

At least two dozen suspects, whistleblowers, and witnesses linked to a $1 billion cheating scandal continue to die under mysterious circumstances. Although many high-level government officials in central India have been accused of accepting bribes, law enforcement officials have primarily been targeting students and lower officials involved in the test-rigging scam. In response to the numerous deaths and the recent demise of an Indian reporter investigating the Vyapam scandal, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has instructed the Indian government to thoroughly investigate these suspicious deaths.

Since 2007, tens of thousands of students and job applicants in the central state of Madhya Pradesh have paid large bribes to manipulate their test results for entrance into medical schools and government positions. Students reportedly paid bribes between $15,000 and $40,000 for admission to medical schools because they could not pass the exams. While investigating complaints of imposters taking entrance exams for various medical schools, police in the city of Indore discovered multiple tests being rigged including recruitment exams for food inspectors, forest rangers, medical officers, police officers, and teachers.

After whistleblowers tipped them off, Indore Police raided a test center and arrested eight imposters taking a medical school entrance exam in July 2013. High-scoring students equipped with fake IDs were paid to impersonate applicants with lower scores. Many test proctors were bribed to allow applicants to sit next to the imposters so they could easily cheat off them. Other applicants left their answer sheets blank so bribed scorers could fill out their exams later with the correct answers.

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Third Blogger Hacked to Death within 3 Months

Originally published on May 13, 2015, at NationofChange.org

Masked men with machetes ambushed a secular blogger on Tuesday morning and hacked him to death on his way to work in Bangladesh. Although the victim’s name was reportedly on a list of targets compiled by Islamic extremists for assassination, police have not arrested anyone for his murder. Ananta Bijoy Das has become the third blogger within the last three months butchered in public for supporting science and reason over religious fundamentalism.

According to police, Das was headed to work at a bank in the city of Sylhet when four masked assailants attacked him on the street with machetes. Sylhet Metropolitan Police Commissioner Kamrul Ahsan told reporters, “They chased him down the street and first attacked his head with their machetes and then attacked him all over his body.”

After the attackers fled into the early morning crowds, Das was transported to a hospital where he was declared dead on arrival. Although Das worked for a bank, he also contributed to the blog Mukto Mona(Free Mind) and was the editor of a scientific magazine named Jukti (Reason). While mainly writing about science and evolution, Das had also been critical of religious fundamentalism and recent violence against secular thinkers.

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Journalists Face Most Deadly and Dangerous Period in Recent History

Originally published on April 29, 2015, at NationofChange.org

According to a report released on Monday, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) found that terrorist groups and governments have made recent years the most dangerous period to work as a journalist. Targeted by both terrorists and national security agencies, journalists across the world have been subjected to kidnapping, torture, murder, government surveillance, censorship, and imprisonment. As Islamic State continues releasing videos of beheaded reporters, the number of journalists detained in jails worldwide has more than doubled since 2000.

In its annual global assessment of press freedom, Attacks on the Press: Journalists caught between terrorists and governments, the CPJ reported that the incessant war on terror has escalated the risk to journalists’ lives as many of their murders remain unsolved. With the advent of mass electronic surveillance, journalists must now employ extreme countermeasures in order to protect the identities of their sources and often succumb to self-censorship while working in abject fear of arbitrary detention.

“From government surveillance and censorship to computer hacking, from physical attacks to imprisonment, kidnapping, and murder, the aim is to limit or otherwise control the flow of information—an increasingly complicated effort, with higher and higher stakes,” wrote CNN’s Christiane Amanpour in the review’s foreword.

In the U.S., the National Security Agency (NSA) is attempting to gather every piece of electronic communication sent or received. With the government recording our phone conversations, email archives, cell-site location, metadata, online activity, and GPS, reporters also have to contend with roving bugs and surveillance cameras in order to protect their source’s identity. Without employing surveillance countermeasures such as encryption tools and clandestine meetings, journalists can no longer guarantee the anonymity of their sources. The Obama administration is also responsible for aggressively prosecuting whistleblowers that provide information to reporters.

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