Iran confirmed on Friday that it has detained four journalists, including a reporter for The Washington Post and two freelance photographers, but did not disclose details about why they were being held.
The Washington Post said its correspondent, Jason Rezaian, and his wife were detained Tuesday evening in the Iranian capital, Tehran. The newspaper said Rezaian, 38, holds both American and Iranian citizenship. His wife, Yeganeh Salehi, is an Iranian citizen who has applied for U.S. permanent residency and works as a correspondent for a newspaper based in the United Arab Emirates. The other two American photojournalists have not been identified.
Gholamhossein Esmaili, director general of Tehran province’s justice department, confirmed that the Washington Post correspondent was being held, according to IRNA, Iran’s official news agency. Speaking to reporters at a public event, he noted that the journalist “has been detained for some questions and after technical investigations, the judiciary will provide details on the issue.”
He added that Iranian security forces are “vigilant towards all kind of enemies’ activities,” IRNA said.
The Committee to Project Journalists, a New York-based organization that works to safeguard press freedom, called on Iranian authorities to immediately explain why the journalists were detained and called for their immediate release.
“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,” Sherif Mansour, the committee’s program co-ordinator for the Middle East, said in a statement.
The committee said Iranian authorities have detained other international journalists in the past.
Iranian-Canadian journalist Maziar Bahari, correspondent for Newsweek magazine, was arrested in June, 2009, and held for four months on anti-state charges. In 2010, he was convicted in absentia and given a 13-year prison term.
U.S. freelance journalist Roxana Saberi was detained in January, 2009, and convicted of espionage in April 2009 and sentenced to eight years in prison. She was released in May, 2009.
The committee said Iran and China, which each have about 35 journalists in detention, are the leading jailers of journalists worldwide.