By Rachel Podnar
Ball State University
The reality of one journalist’s fate facing an oppressive sentence in an Iranian prison silenced a room of editors celebrating some of the country’s best work of the year during the APME/ASNE award luncheon Saturday afternoon.
Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron called on media executives to take up the plight of Post reporter Jason Rezaian, convicted last week in Iran of crimes still unknown. Rezaian has been incarcerated in an Iranian prison for 450 days.
In the midst of commemorating great work, it was a somber moment, a reminder of the risk that comes with being a journalist.
Rezaian was arrested on charges of espionage on July 2, 2014, along with three others, all three of whom have been released.
Baron said The Post has found no evidence of espionage, and the Iranian government has not shown any evidence of espionage either.
“We state categorically that he is innocent of all of these charges and that they are preposterous and an outrage,” he said. “The court has had ample opportunity to produce evidence for the world to see.”
Rezaian was held in solitary confinement for four months and was not permitted to meet with a lawyer for an extended period of time. Early in the case, lawyers were intimidated into pulling out, and the judge who was selected is one of the most notorious judges in Iran, Baron said. The trial was held in secret. The Washington Post requested a visa to attend and never received a response from the government.
So far there’s been no word about Rezaian’s sentence, and his lawyer has yet to be officially informed of the conviction. When there is a conviction, Baron said, typically there are 20 days to appeal, but Rezaian’s lawyer does not know how to proceed without first knowing for what he was convicted.
Baron speculated that the Iranians are seeking a prisoner exchange for as many as 19 Iranian prisoners held in America.
He appealed to the editors in the room to keep Rezaian in their minds and to raise his case repeatedly by using their editorial influence.
“We are all feeling a sense of tragedy at what’s transpired here. If it weren’t such a tragedy it would be a farce,” Baron said. “But here is one man’s life has been disrupted and he’s been subjected to physical abuse and psychological abuse.”
— Kevin Merida (@meridak) October 17, 2015
— Robyn Tomlin (@robyntomlin) October 17, 2015