Five hundred and five days ago, Jason Rezaian, an Iranian-American journalist and the Washington Post’s Tehran Bureau Chief, was arrested. He and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, were charged with espionage and imprisoned. Rezaian’s last major story for the Post was about interest for baseball in Iran.
On Tuesday afternoon, Jason Rezaian received the Hugo Shong Reporting on Asia Award at the Boston University Castle, where about 40 of his peers and supporters, including his boss, Douglas Jehl, of the Washington Post, celebrated his accomplishments.
BU College of Communication Dean Thomas Fiedler delivered opening remarks before Ali Rezaian accepted the award on behalf of his brother.
“Jason has dedicated his professional life to reporting from Iran, first as a freelancer then as a Washington post correspondent,” Ali Rezaian said. “Jason’s intention was always to give his readers a fuller understanding of Iranian society and the frequent disconnect between the Iranian government and the desires of the Iranian people.”
Salehi, also a journalist, was released on bail after 10 weeks. She is not allowed to leave the country, nor is she allowed to work or speak to other journalists.
There are believed to be four charges against Jason Rezaian, Jehl said. But it has never been made public exactly what those charges are, nor has the evidence of those charges been made clear.
According to Jehl, Jason Rezaian was operating fully accredited by the Iranian government, prior to his arrest. He had even traveled with President Rohani on a trip. Jehl described his access to government officials to be moving forward, despite never being impeccable.
“It’s really been a sham,” Jehl said. “Iran has always been an opaque place in which decisions unfold in a way that’s difficult for outsiders to discern.”
For nine months, Jason Rezaian and his family were prohibited from hiring a lawyer to defend him. According to statements by Ali Rezaian and Jehl, Jason Rezaian had no more than an hour with the lawyer prior to his trial.
“While I think it’s easy and justifiable to place blame at the feet of the Iranian government for advancing a cartoonish public persona, Jason was also concerned that the Western media was happy to lazily perpetuate these stereotypes at the expense of the Iranian people and its own citizens, and to keep them from understanding a complex and divided society,” Ali Rezaian said.
Clearly troubled by the events unfolding around his brother, Ali Rezaian expressed clear, strident optimism about his brother’s release.
“The last time I accepted an award on Jason’s behalf, it was in July at the National Press Club. At the time, there was no way I could imagine this would continue for another six months for my brother. Until now, almost Christmas,” Ali Rezaian said. “And while I’m proud to be here today to accept the award on Jason’s behalf, I’m hopeful that with the help of supporters such as yourselves, the Washington Post, our non-governmental organization partners and the national government, Jason will be able to accept his next award in person.”
“He knows that we’re here today and he’s expressed his appreciation for your support and this recognition,” he added.