One may be inclined to think that the arrest of Hashemi on Sunday would infuriate those who uphold the sanctity of the fourth estate. But Hashemi, a black American Muslim woman who works for Iran’s state-funded Press TV, is no friend of the establishment media.
American journalist Marzieh Hashemi was arrested on Sunday by the FBI as a witness in a criminal case with no further information provided. On Friday, a motion was introduced to at a DC court to unseal proceedings in her case in an apparent effort to shed some light on what has become an international incident shrouded in mystery.
Records reveal that Hashemi was also in court on Tuesday. Her son was also asked to make an appearance, but it is not clear for what purpose.
Since President Donald Trump came into office after railing against “fake news” during the campaign, the media in the United States has been on the defensive, portraying journalists as the guardians of democracy. Verbal attacks on the press from the president have spurred no shortage of outcry, making press freedom a recurring rallying cry during the Trump era.
Given this context, one may be inclined to think that the arrest of Hashemi on Sunday would infuriate those who uphold the sanctity of the fourth estate. But Hashemi, a black American Muslim woman who works for Iran’s state-funded Press TV, is no friend of the establishment media. A critic of apartheid Israel, police brutality and the surveillance of Muslims in the U.S., Marzieh’s case is being largely ignored.
While it has gotten some coverage in mainstream media, publications have been careful to include a heavy dose of anti-Iran messaging in order to distract from the injustices in the case of the jailed American anchor.
CBS News' report on the arrest *without charge* of a black Muslim journalist by US authorities includes an entire section on Americans charged with espionage in Iran in order to balance out the impression that the US is abusing her rights by invoking a false equivalency. pic.twitter.com/eeCVPuhVlF
— Alex Rubinstein (@RealAlexRubi) January 17, 2019
In the vacuum left by the mainstream media’s sidelining of Hashemi’s story, Twitter users are flooding the platform with tweets calling to #FreeMarziehHashemi.
Be Marzieh's voice
Share her news wide
She is a journalist who was abducted by the FBI.
What if it were you? pic.twitter.com/llKELzMVc0
— Marwa Osman (@Marwa__Osman) January 16, 2019
Hashemi has lived in Iran decades, according to Press TV. She was traveling in the U.S. to visit her sick brother and film a documentary on the Black Lives Matter movement when she was arrested without charge. She has been held at an undisclosed facility around Washington, DC since Sunday and is due to testify as a material witness in a sealed case before a grand jury, alongside her children on Friday.
Marzieh is well-known for standing firm on her values while respecting the rights & views of others. She has friends from all walks of life. she’s been able to bridge the gaps between two religions and cultures; making her an international citizen#FreeMarziehHashemi pic.twitter.com/jht5Bs9Iu3
— Free Marzieh Hashemi (@freemarzieh) January 18, 2019
In the U.S., government prosecutors must prove that a person has “extraordinary value” in a criminal investigation before the judge will allow that person to be arrested. The constitutionality of the practices has never been meaningfully tested,” Ricardo J. Bascuas, a law professor at the University of Miami, told the Associated Press. “The government only relies on it when they need a reason to arrest somebody but they don’t have one.”
Journalist Marzieh Hashemi was abducted by the FBI upon arrival at St. Louis Lambert International Airport.
Marzieh’s family members and media activists have launched a social media campaign with the hashtags #FreeMarziehHashemi and #Pray4MarziehHashemi
Please raise the voice pic.twitter.com/jMcakt8WvU
— سحر حسين غدار (@ghaddar_sahar) January 16, 2019
U.S. authorities have allegedly made Hashemi remove her hijab and wear short-sleeved shirts, forcing her to violate her Islamic faith. According to Press TV, Hashemi is “being offered only pork as a meal and not even bread.”
In the U.S., ham sandwiches are a staple of jail food. Muslims have repeatedly sued prisons and jails in the U.S. over their refusal to provide halal meals.
— Caleb T. Maupin (@calebmaupin) January 16, 2019
The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) – the largest Muslim civil rights organization in the U.S. – called on authorities to “cease violating her religious rights.”
#FreeMarziehHashemi – #CAIR Calls on DOJ, FBI to Explain Detention of African-American TV Anchor Marzieh Hashemi, Cease Violating Her Religious Rightshttps://t.co/oCaAnejCpK pic.twitter.com/OKvjZzBQuI
— CAIR National (@CAIRNational) January 18, 2019
“Law enforcement officials must clarify why they are holding Ms. Hashemi without formal charges and why they have allegedly denied her religious rights while in custody,” CAIR National Executive Director Nihad Awad said. “There can be no justification for denying an American citizen, or any other person, their basic civil and religious rights.”
— Press TV (@PressTV) January 17, 2019
Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif vowed to continue looking after Hashemi as she is also an Iranian citizen. The top diplomat called her a “famous journalist” and her arrest a “very clear affront to freedom of expression; a political abuse of an innocent individual.”
— Press TV (@PressTV) January 17, 2019
Hashemi’s colleague at Press TV recalled: “we used to always talk about the issues in the UK and the U.S. I’d be talking about the problems in the UK and she’d be talking about the problems in the U.S.… the biggest problem now is to get Marzieh to come home.”
Islamic Movement in Nigeria Under the leadership of Sheikh Zakzaky condemned the arrest & illegal detention of Marzieh Hashemi by US #FBI in Kano state & called for the immediate released of their leader.#FreeMarziehHashemi #Pray4MarziehHashemi @SNA110 @SMQasim92 @saifali2784 pic.twitter.com/VK3B036gCZ
— Yusuf Hamisu Sani (@yusufhsani) January 18, 2019
Around the world, people have expressed solidary with Marzieh during this precarious time for the veteran news anchor. The Islamic Movement in Nigeria called for her immediate release, rallying with big banners featuring her likeness and reading “#FreeMarziehHashemi.”
What baffles me most is that we still don't know why the @FBI arrested, although we cannot rule out the fact that they want to silence her.#FreeMarziehHashemi#Pray4MarziehHashemi pic.twitter.com/BVtM3SwVGh
— Sidi Aliyu Musa AlRafidih (@sharepaliyumusa) January 18, 2019
One Twitter user wrote that the U.S. “messed with the wrong woman! Marzieh is the sister of a couple of billion people around the world that you will not be able to silence!”
— #FreeMarziehHashemi (@AppleOfHeaven) January 18, 2019
The pictures attached to that tweet appears to show an outpouring of solidarity from individuals in the U.S., Lebanon, Kashmir and in Iran.
Top Photo | This undated photo provided by Iranian Press TV, shows its American-born news anchor Marzieh Hashemi. On Friday, Press TV reported that its American anchorwoman detained in the U.S. will appear in court in Washington. Press TV via AP
Alexander Rubinstein is a staff writer for MintPress News based in Washington, DC. He reports on police, prisons and protests in the United States and the United States’ policing of the world. He previously reported for RT and Sputnik News.