26.01.2019 Author: Catherine Shakdam

Broken Democracy — America Detains US-born Journalist without Charge

JOURNAL NEO Marzieh Hashemi

“… Iran does it too!” When confronted with news that FBI had detained US-born journalist Melanie Franklin (better known as Marzieh Hashemi) without proper due legal process and in clear infringement of her constitutional rights, US media were only too happy to justify the move by arguing tit for tat with the Islamic Republic.

If the argument seems abysmally incoherent it’s because it is! To rationalise a crime by arguing that others do it would be to justify the murder of Jamal Khashoggi by virtue of other nations’ heinous crimes against humanity … the exercise is not only foolish it is down right irrational.

Marzieh Hashemi, a US- born journalist and TV anchor for Press TV (Iran) was detained by FBI on January 14, 2019 after she landed at St Louis airport where she had travelled to from Iran to visit her terminally ill brother and complete a documentary on the Black Lives Matter movement. As the holder of a US passport, Ms Hashemi had every right to enter the United States of America – as she had done dozens of times prior.

With the authorities keeping mum as to why Marzieh remains in detention her friends and colleagues are not short of theories. A fierce advocate for human rights, religious freedom and nations’ right to political self-determination as well as a civil rights activist Ms Hashemi has amassed as many fans as she has generated detractors.

The timing and circumstances of her arrest scream political censorship at a juncture in America’s history when speaking truth equates to a declaration of war against the ‘powers that be’ aka Trump & co.

Whether Marzieh was targeted for the opinions she holds, or her religious beliefs, or even her political affiliations and choice of residence: Iran matter very little … her rights as a US citizen and law-abiding individual were violated in the most despicable manner and fashion.

Speaking to the press Iran Foreign Minister Javad Zarif commented: “The misbehavior of the US government indicates that the US does not abide by any principles protecting rights of those criticizing the system and is now turned to a dangerous country for reporters.”

I would go as far as accuse the United States of purposely seeking to do Ms Hashemi harm by depriving her of food and proper clothing in the middle of winter.

An observant Muslim Marzieh has been forced to survive on crackers and pretzels on account the authorities have made a point in only serving her pork products.

The move is crass, cruel and by definition inhumane … not to say racist.

It is as if America made a complete U-turn in History to firmly park itself in the middle of 1950 Georgia!

“We still have no idea what’s going on,” Hossein Hashemi told Press TV late on Wednesday, adding that he and his siblings had been subpoenaed to appear before a grand jury.

He further said his mother was being held in a prison, apparently as a “material witness”.

If she was indeed a witness then why would the FBI feel the urge to deprive her of her freedom? The liberties America’s security apparatus is currently taking under the Trump’s administration equate to bona fide oppression.

“She seemed OK. She was upset about the kind of treatment that she was receiving as a person who (faces) charges would be treated. She had only eaten pretzels because her dietary restrictions limited her from the kinds of food that the prison facility would offer. She is also upset about the fact that her hijab was removed during processing and later on she was only able to cover her hair with a T-shirt apparently,” Hossein Hashemi said.

The issue, however it came about, under whomever authority is one of censorship.

A veteran journalist and eloquent TV anchor Marzieh Hashemi disturbs by the fierceness of her principles and systematic calling into account of our authorities’ abuses.

Allow me to break it down slowly: THIS IS WHAT JOURNALISM LOOKS LIKE! It is part of media professionals’ job description to push the envelope and challenge the status quo. To leave things as they are and to shy away from the difficult questions condemn us all to intellectual and democratic atrophy.

And though the idea is pleasing to many wannabe autocrats, censorship – however oppressive and violent, will only serve to deepen our resolve.

Let’s face it America today very much resembles the likes of Saudi Arabia, where the mere hint of a difference of opinion, fashion, or even belief can land you on a head-chopping board.

Hashemi said his mother was detained as she was about to board a flight from St Louis to Denver. “She is somebody who is harassed regularly. Every time she travels using air travel, she is pulled to the side. Each time it’s an hour-long, even two-hour- long interview, interrogation,” he said. “This has been going on for almost a decade now.”

If the US still wants to hold on to its title of grand defender of Lady Liberty it has long dropped her torch … if anything is certain is that that ‘light ain’t shining no more sir …”

Marzieh, like so many journalists, activists, and other individuals before her has fallen prey to a system that breaks the law it says to represent and violates the principles it says to embody.

Catherine Shakdam is the Director of Programs of the Shafaqna Institute for Middle Eastern Studies and a political analyst specializing in radical movements, exclusively for the online magazine “New Eastern Outlook”.

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