Media Op-Ed

Iran: Jason Rezaian Vs Cyrus McGoldrick

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OIAC- The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement on the case of Jason Rezaian , the Washington Post correspondent and American-Iranian dual citizen who is set to appear in court on May 26 to face charges of espionage after being held in detention since July 22.

 

The statement points out that according to Rezaian’s attorney, the case file against him indicates no evidence to substantiate the charges of spying, collaborating with a hostile government, and disseminating information on Iran’s internal and foreign policy. This fact supports the notion that Rezaian has been targeted by virtue of his American citizenship and not on the basis of any observed violations of the law.

For the vast majority of Rezaian’s detention, the nature of the charges against him remained undisclosed, possibly indicating that the Iranian judiciary had not built a case against him until long after his arrest.

If that case was indeed viewed by Tehran as an opportunity to send a message of defiance to the US or to secure leverage against it, Rezaian is likely not the only currently imprisoned American of whom this is true. Some advocates for each of these prisoners have accused the US government of doing too little to secure their release. But Iranian officials reject any attempts at intercession on their behalf. The Iranian regime does not recognize dual citizenship and maintains that their dubious cases against American-Iranians are matters for the Iranian judiciary alone.

“Iran must end this travesty of justice immediately,” the CPJ statement reads. “After more than 300 days of unwarranted detention, the least Iran could do is to release Rezaian on bail and grant his employer entry to the country and access to the legal proceedings.”

The Washington Post has applied for a visa for one of its senior reporters to be present throughout Rezaian’s trial. But given the Iranian government’s attitude toward this and other such cases, as well as its general restrictions on visa applications, the Post’s prospects are doubtful. If the application is denied, it may simply be viewed as a further example of Iranian antagonism of both Western nationals and the media.

The CPJ routinely notes that Iran is among the worst jailers of journalists in the world. But it is also worth noting that the effects of this repression are amplified by Tehran’s maintenance of an elaborate network of propaganda distributed through both official and semi-official media. This network occasionally relies on Western nationals with fringe views in order to give itself greater legitimacy.

The treatment of such individuals is to a great extent a mirror image of the treatment of such Westerners as Jason Rezaian. On Friday, a profile of one such individual was featured by FrontPage Mag. The article points out that Cyrus McGoldrick, a radicalized American Muslim convert, has been featured on 17 shows on Iran’s English-language propaganda broadcaster Press TV. His most recent appearance was May 14, shortly after which McGoldrich returned to US soil.

His appearances on Press TV have tended to be transparently hostile to the US and to Muslims deemed to be cooperating with the US. This coincides with McGoldrick’s fiery presence on social media. Apparently referring to Muslims worldwide, he has used Facebook to refer to Iran as “our nation,” and he has used Twitter to call for the destruction of Israel.

By contrast, Jason Rezaian’s reporting from Iran was famously apolitical, tending to feature cultural and human interest stories and staying away from subjects deemed sensitive or undesirable by the Iranian regime. What’s more, Rezaian himself is reportedly apolitical to the extent that friends and family find the regime’s accusations of spying to be laughable.

FrontPage Mag paints the opposite picture of McGoldrick, who has been permitted to transit back and forth between Iran and his native United States without incident. The author suggests that he should be interviewed by the US Justice Department not just because of his relationship with Iran but also because of his history of working for Muslim groups with known links to the financing of terrorism.

In context with each other, the McGoldrick and Rezaian stories certainly highlight the vast differences between the Iranian and American legal and counterintelligence apparatuses. They also highlight the differences between the types of American citizens that are scrutinized and the types that are embraced by the Iranian regime. While simply being American may not be enough to bring one under scrutiny, the cases against Rezaian and his fellow political prisoners suggests that if an American citizen is not explicitly hostile to his own government, he is naturally suspected of collaborating and spying on its behalf.

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