National Press Club

NPC celebrates long-overdue release of Jason Rezaian

Tommy Burr | January 18, 2016

Photo: Martin Baron/The Washington Post

National Press Club members and journalists worldwide awoke Saturday to exciting, and long-overdue, news that our friend and colleague Jason Rezaian of The Washington Post was being released from Iranian prison after 544 days.

The Press Club, led by then-President John Hughes, Freedom of the Press Committee Chairman John Donnelly, Executive Director Bill
McCarren and countless others, had worked hard to keep Jason's case top of mind in the journalism community and educate the world of his wrongful arrest and unjust detention on baseless charges. We held news conferences, a 24-hour readathon of Jason's stories, kept ads on the top of our Website and offered The Post and Jason's brother, Ali, any help we could to call attention the cause.

It was a joyous moment to walk into the Press Club on Saturday to see the #FreeJason sign that had been displayed in our lobby for more than a year was replaced with a screen heralding #JasonIsFree. While we celebrated that day – with quick work, we announced to the public we would open the club to those who wanted to follow the developments – we all knew that this day never needed to happen. Jason shouldn't have been stuck in a prison cell at all; He should have been allowed to continue reporting those 544 days and beyond, updating us all on key news inside Iran.

One thing we should make clear: Journalists should never be used as pawns in negotiations, and they should never be held as political hostages.

While we may have played a role in keeping the attention on Jason, we at the National Press Club applaud the courage and tenacity of Jason's family, especially his brother Ali, and The Washington Post who have been tireless in their efforts to free Jason. We can't wait to welcome him home.

I would like to offer a quick thank you to everyone involved in the Press Club's outreach on behalf of Jason, especially Hughes, whose year as president focused on our press freedom efforts and Jason's case in particular. Since Jason's release, we've received thank yous from The Post, Ali Rezaian and others for our help.

Now that Jason is free, let's continue to ensure that no journalist faces such a punishment for doing his or her job. As was the case with Jason, part of our mission as the National Press Club is to promote the cause of press freedoms. Let's keep it up.