Trump Administration Detains American-born Iranian Journalist; No Reason Given
What happened to freedom of the press and rights to due process? Apparently, under the Trump administration they don't exist anymore.
According to a report in the New York Times, a prominent American-born journalist working for an Iranian state-run satellite television channel has been arrested in the United States, the broadcaster said Wednesday.
The reported action, which has not been confirmed by the American authorities, was condemned by Iranian officials. The journalist, Marzieh Hashemi, who has lived in Iran since 2009, is an anchor at the channel, Press TV.
It said that Ms. Hashemi, 59, was arrested at the St. Louis airport on Sunday and transferred by the F.B.I. to Washington, where she remained in custody. No charges have been filed against her, the channel said.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif of Iran was quick to denounce the reported arrest of Ms. Hashemi.
“The custody of Iran’s reporter in the U.S. is highly political, and she should be released immediately,” Mr. Zarif was quoted as saying by the official Islamic Republic News Agency.
The report of Ms. Hashemi’s detention comes a week after Iran confirmed that it had detained a United States Navy veteran, Michael R. White. Mr. White’s family said that he was arrested in July while visiting his Iranian girlfriend and that he has been in custody on unknown charges since then.
Relations between Iran and the United States have become increasingly tense since President Trump withdrew from the nuclear accord last May and reimposed sanctions. Iran and the United States exchanged prisoners in 2016. At least three other American citizens, two of them of Iranian descent, are thought to be incarcerated in Iran.
Ms. Hashemi’s family said in a statement that no reason had been given for her arrest. They said that her Islamic head scarf had been forcibly removed, that she was chained hand and foot, and that she was being denied access to halal food and had eaten only crackers.
Bahram Qassemi, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said the arrest highlighted the “racist and discriminatory” policies of the Trump administration.
“The imprisonment of a reporter who is nonwhite and enters the U.S. demonstrates how the approach of Mr. Trump’s government is based on racist and discriminatory policies within an apartheid regime,” Mr. Qassemi told state television. “We hope that this innocent person is unconditionally released soon.”
Nader Talebzadeh, an Iranian writer and filmmaker who has worked with Ms. Hashemi, described her arrest as a “concocted plan by the Trump administration” to elicit a reaction from Iran. “This is intimidation and a provocation against Iran,” he said.
Ms. Hashemi was born Melanie Franklin in New Orleans and converted to Islam. She has long publicly supported the 1979 Islamic Revolution and is married to an Iranian. Ms. Hashemi is one of the main anchors at Press TV, which was established by Iran’s state television to spread the country’s message around the globe. It is a part of the Voice and Vision organization of Iran, a powerful state media organization that is widely seen as a tool of the country’s hard-line factions.
The station has featured interviews with Western analysts often critical of their own governments, and Ms. Hashemi has filed reports on discrimination against women, Muslims and African-Americans in the United States.
Press TV has found itself enmeshed in several controversies, including in 2010 when it broadcast a confession given under duress by Maziar Bahari, a Canadian-Iranian journalist who was arrested in 2009 while covering the Iranian elections for Newsweek. The British telecommunications regulator, Ofcom, fined Press TV 100,000 pounds and in 2012 revoked the station’s license, saying the station had failed to pay the fine and address issues of its independence.
In 2016, two executives at the station were suspended after a prominent newscaster said she had been sexually harassed by them for years.