Washington Post editor-in-chief Marty Baron says that moving forward, the Iranian government’s treatment of Post correspondent Jason Rezaian—who was imprisoned for nearly two years on trumped-up charges before his release last month—will definitely affect how his paper covers Iran. “Right now we’re not in a position to be able to put a correspondent there,” Baron told the Voice of America. “We’ve had no discussions with the Iranian government about having another correspondent there, and we would need some good assurances from the government that a correspondent there would not be arrested, as Jason was.”
If Baron sticks to his guns, the Post probably won’t have a reporter in Iran for quite a while—proving that, from the Iranian government’s point of view, holding Rezaian hostage was a smart move. By jailing Rezaian, the regime shaped how every Western media organization with a correspondent or even a stringer on the ground covered Iran for two years—or the entire duration of the public debate over the Iran Deal. If you wanted to keep your reporter from being tortured in Evin prison, you’d better not print news that made the Iranian government angry.
Baron also noted that there are factions within the regime itself. In the standard reading, there are moderates, like President Hassan Rouhani, and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, who oppose hardliners, like the Revolutionary Guard Corps and the office of the supreme leader, Ali Khamenei. In this reading, the hardliners are responsible for every bad thing that Iran ever does—from funding terrorism to detaining American sailors. The hardliners do bad things because they’re bad guys and because they’re competing with the moderates. They tossed an American journalist in jail to show the Rouhani clique who really calls the shots, which is why Western journalists were so sympathetic to the moderates and took their side against the hardliners. Except it wasn’t the hardliners who put Rezaian in jail, it was the moderates—because that’s how they won the hearts and minds and terrified the imaginations of the Western media, which played a key role in buttressing their position.