PressTV news anchor, Marzieh Hashemi, was released after ten days in a federal prison in Washington DC. Today, she completed her third appearance before a federal grand jury as a “material witness” in a case which the Justice Department has sealed. She was arrested at the St. Louis airport as she was about to board a flight to Colorado to visit her son, who is a graduate fellow at the University of Colorado. Hashemi is a U.S. citizen, and only the second known citizen to be seized in this fashion and held under detention. The material witness is supposed to be used only as an extreme last resort when the government believes there is a high likelihood someone may make themselves unavailable to testify by leaving the country. In this case, arresting her was completely unwarranted and a constitutional violation.
Unfortunately, the organizations which are supposed to uphold those rights remained largely on the wayside. Neither the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights nor Reporters Without Borders made any official statement of concern and objection. I contacted all three (and other NGOs who did make statements) and none even bothered to respond (CCR did respond with a limp tweet on my second attempt to elicit any response). I wonder if they will offer to represent her in a lawsuit against the Justice Department, as recompense for being AWOL while she needed them in prison. To be fair, Jamil Dakwar, director of the ACLU’s Human Rights program did tweet twice in his personal capacity expressing distress at her treatment.
Very concerning that U.S. officials are not even confirming the arrest of journalist Marzieh Hashemi. Does the Trump administration want to disappear and lock up journalists like in authoritarian regimes? https://t.co/9XM67cg3eR
— Jamil Dakwar (@jdakwar) January 16, 2019
Reuters quoted an anonymous government source claiming that her arrest was related to a case the government was pursuing against PressTV for failing to register as a foreign agent. One of the claims the source made was that the news outlet was not a proper media organizations, but rather a “propaganda outlet.” Why the feds need to file a secret criminal complaint in this matter when they quite openly ordered Sputnik and RT to do the same–without arrests and without grand jury proceedings. The answer can only be that Trump is rattling his sabers against Iran, possibly at the behest of his leading administration regime-changers, John Bolton and Mike Pompeo. Hashemi got squeezed unenviably between the the unstoppable force of the Trump administration and the immovable object of Iran.
I always find it ironic when pro-Israel types attack me for doing interviews on PressTV or publishing at Middle East Eye. They claim that the former is a propaganda outlet for the Iranian regime and MEE is funded by Qatar. What do these people think Israel Hayom, Jerusalem Post, Times of Israel, Makor Rishon or Arutz Sheva are? Free, independent news outlets publishing without fear or favor? Really. Most of them are owned by billionaire oligarchs and represent the views of their owners. Is there a difference between being funded by a nation or by an oligarch? And what do we think Voice of America, Radio Marti, Radio Free Europe are? They are fully funded media outlets airing news that reflect and promote the interests of the U.S. government. One may be more polished or slightly less dogmatic than the other–but they both have similar aims. My own aims have nothing to do with the interests of PressTV or the U.S. government. I am offering my own independent critique of Israeli and U.S. policy. And I do that without fear or favor.
News reports say that Hashemi plans to remain in Washington DC for a protest against her treatment scheduled for Friday.