A Tehran-based Washington Post reporter and others have been arrested in Iran on unspecified charges.
Gholam-Hossein Esmaili, director general of the Tehran Province Justice Department, confirmed Friday that a Washington Post correspondent and his wife, who is also a reporter, had been detained for questioning.
The Islamic Republic News Agency, the official news agency of the Islamic Republic of Iran, reported that “after technical investigations, the judiciary will provide details on the issue.”
Esmaili addressed reporters during a rally for Quds Day, or a celebration of Palestinian resistance to Israel, held on the last Friday of Ramadan. He also expressed grievances about the way international organizations addressed “Zionist crimes against Palestinians” in Gaza, but it was unclear if his comments were related to the journalists’ arrests.
The news release did not identify the four arrested correspondents by name, which include Post reporter Jason Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, a correspondent for the United Arab Emirates newspaper, the National.
Rezaian, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Iran, has served as the Post’s Tehran correspondent since 2012. Salehi is an Iranian citizen in the process of applying for permanent residency in the U.S.
Rezaian’s most recent article for the Post was published July 18.
The other two journalists detained with them have only been identified as freelance photojournalists.
Douglas Jehl, foreign editor for the Washington Post, confirmed Rezaian’s identity and the reports from Iran.
“We are deeply troubled by this news and are concerned for the welfare of Jason, Yeganeh and two others said to have been detained with them,” Jehl said in a statement. The Post has not announced what it may do going forward.
The Committee to Protect Journalists issued a statement that expressed shock over the arrests and demanded the release of the journalists.
“We call on Iranian authorities to immediately explain why Jason Rezaian, Yeganeh Salehi, and two other journalists have been detained, and we call for their immediate release,” said Sherif Mansour, the committee’s Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "Iran has a dismal record with regard to its treatment of imprisoned journalists. We hold the Iranian government responsible for the safety of these four."
In an interview, Mansour said Iran has a history of torturing imprisoned journalists, while some journalists have reportedly died from torture within prison.
“The more we wait, and the more journalists are behind bars, the more dangerous this situation will be for them,” Mansour said.
Iran imprisoned 35 journalists in 2013, the second highest number behind Turkey, according to the latest annual CPJ study. The country has fallen within the top three worst jailers of the press since 2009.
Mansour said Iran’s high rate of journalist imprisonment is likely due to journalists’ role in uncovering election fraud or human rights’ abuses by officials, as well as the journalists’ association with the U.S., a country considered a threat to Iran.
“We want to see a resolution of this conflict that helps the press,” Mansour said. “[Iran] should be held accountable and responsible for the safety of those journalists, and the sooner we get them out, the better for everyone, including the Iranian government.”