Ever since President Trump took office, the United States has become an increasingly hostile place for journalists. As he endlessly rails against the “fake news media” and decries them as the “enemy of the state,” journalists have been targeted with pipe bombs and barraged with rape threats by his rabid supporters, jeered and insulted when they cover his rallies — and now they’re even being locked up.
On January 13th, the Trump administration arrested and imprisoned an American-born journalist, Marzieh Hashemi, on a “material witness warrant” but did not confirm her detention until Friday.
The New York Times reports that “American authorities expected her to be released after ‘her testimony before a grand jury investigating violations of U.S. criminal law,'” though authorities refused to provide any information about what those violations might be — but given the Trump administration’s ghastly exploitation of crimes by illegal immigrants, one can assume they have no evidence of terrorism or espionage, or else they certainly would have said so.
“We still have no idea what’s going on,” said her son Hossein, who is a research fellow at the University of Colorado.
She was not charged with any crimes and her family alleges that she has already been mistreated in federal custody, saying that “her Islamic headscarf had been forcibly removed, that she was chained hand and foot, and that she was being denied access to halal food and had eaten only crackers.”
Given that the Trump administration attempted to ban all Muslims from the United States, deliberately separated thousands of migrant children from their parents, deliberately let thousands of people in Puerto Rico suffer and die in the aftermath of a cataclysmic hurricane, has determinedly been attempting to sabotage our already-frail relationship with the Islamic Republic of Iran, and has generally attempted to be as cruel and callous as it possibly be towards people of color it would be criminal to give the Trump team the benefit of the doubt as to the veracity of Hashemi’s accusations.
Hashemi has worked as an anchor for Iranian state media company PressTV for decades and it appears that her arrest is an attempt by the Trump administration to provoke Iran after they confirmed last week they had detained visiting American veteran Michael R. White in July on unknown charges that in all likelihood will turn out to be espionage.
Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Bahram Qassemi denounced the arrest as evidence of the “racist and discriminatory” policies of the Trump administration and immediately demanded her release.
“Regrettably, she was deprived of any access or contact to the outside of her detention house for two days and misbehavior of the US white-collars to this Muslim-American national was a blatant violation of human rights and rights of citizenship while ignoring legitimate rights of a Muslim woman,” said Qassemi in a statement.
“The custody of Iran’s reporter in the US is highly political and she should be released immediately,” said Iran’s foreign minister, Mohamed Javad Zarif.
It is a deeply disturbing story that has barely made any headlines in an American media landscape that shamelessly bootlicks and whitewashes the murderous excesses of the national security establishment and is instinctively Islamophobic because of it.
The silence from the press and from the liberal opposition to Trump about a Muslim journalist being exploited as a pawn by the Trump administration to provoke international conflict is absolutely damning, especially considering the fervor with which they defended the sketch artists at SNL and cable news reporters at CNN when they were the subjects of Trump’s threats.
I wonder what the difference is.