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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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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23 Egyptian Activists Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Protesting

Originally published on October 27, 2014, at NationofChange.org

An Egyptian court sentenced 23 young activists to three years in prison for protesting without a government permit on Sunday. Following the political turbulence of the Arab Spring and the downfall of President Morsi, Egypt has been aggressively prosecuting anyone caught practicing free speech or peaceful assembly in an attempt to silence dissent. Although the U.S. State Department has publicly condemned the court’s decision, President Obama continues to fund the new Egyptian government and its military.

On June 21, activists marched towards the presidential palace in Cairo protesting against Egypt’s draconian anti-protest law and the repeated incarceration of political blogger, Alaa Abd El-Fattah, along with others. As they marched to the palace, the activists were attacked by several groups of men wearing civilian clothes. As security forces dispersed the crowd, they arrested 24 young activists including a child named Islam Tawfik Mohamed Hassan who faces trial in a juvenile court according to Amnesty International.

While buying water from a kiosk, Yara Sallam and her cousin were arrested along with the protesters. According to witnesses, Sallam and her cousin had not been participating in the demonstration. The following day, security forces released Sallam’s cousin, but kept Sallam in custody after discovering her occupation as a lawyer with the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights. She has been convicted along with the protesters and sentenced to three years in prison. Amnesty International considers Sallam a prisoner of conscience who must be released immediately.

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