THE POST has been celebrating the release of reporter Jason Rezaian and his wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who is also a journalist, following their unjust detention and Mr. Rezaian’s prolonged imprisonment in Iran. But even after their freeing, Iran remains a world leader in the imprisonment and abuse of journalists. At least 19 other reporters, cartoonists and editors are still being held by the Islamic regime, often in cruel and inhumane conditions, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). The story of Mr. Rezaian’s ordeal ought to focus more attention on those who remain behind bars.
The CPJ’s annual survey of imprisoned journalists describes a wide range of Iranian professionals, from editors of well -known newspapers to “citizen journalists” posting on social media. A number are members of ethnic minorities, including Kurds working for newspapers and websites catering to that population. The majority reported for media associated with reformist political forces in Iran, which have endured repeated waves of repression in recent years. The longest-serving prisoners CPJ identified were arrested in 2007; the most recent were detained this month, in a crackdown ahead of the elections scheduled for late February.
Many of the prisoners have, like Mr. Rezaian, suffered from arbitrary and blatantly illegal treatment by Iranian authorities. Some have had their detentions extended or parole denied in violation of Iran’s own laws; a few have had new cases brought against them after their prison terms expired, to keep them jailed. Several have staged hunger strikes in an attempt to gain basic rights, such as medical care or visits with critically ill relatives.
According to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), several of the journalists have serious medical problems that their captors have disregarded. One, Hossein Ronaghi Malki, was reimprisoned last week in violation of medical advice after being paroled to obtain kidney surgery. RSF says his life is now in danger. Another, Said Razavi Faghih, should have been released when he completed a sentence in March, but instead was retried and given a new, longer sentence — not long after undergoing heart surgery.
What all of the journalists have in common with Mr. Rezaian is that they are not guilty of any crime recognized by civilized governments. They were targeted explicitly for reporting or commenting on Iran and its leaders. Some are charged with “insulting” Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei or “propaganda against the regime.” Five who were arrested in November were accused of being part of an “infiltration network” backed by “hostile Western countries”; in other words, they interviewed foreign officials or wrote for media outside of Iran.
Tehran found an interest in releasing Mr. Rezaian, whose case had received international attention, and who, along with several other Americans, were exchanged for seven Iranians jailed in the United States. But the regime’s fundamental totalitarian character hasn’t altered. We’ll know that Iran has really begun to change when the brave journalists still in prison are freed.