At White House Press Correspondents' Dinner, Obama pays emotional tribute to journalist detained by Iran

Published May 1st, 2016 - 09:10 GMT
Jason Rezaian, a US journalist detained by Iran for 1.5 years, at the White House Press Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday night. (photo: CSPAN)
Jason Rezaian, a US journalist detained by Iran for 1.5 years, at the White House Press Correspondents' Dinner on Saturday night. (photo: CSPAN)

In the annual White House Press Correspondents Dinner on Saturday night, Obama didn't make a single reference to the Middle East until the very end of his speech when he stopped joking and struck a serious note.  

Speaking about the importance of a free press, Obama used the last few minutes of the half-hour speech to pay homage to an American reporter who spent 1.5 years in an Iranian prison before being released in January. 

"A free press is why once again we honor Jason Rezaian," Obama said. "Last year, we spoke of Jason's courage as he endured the isolation of an Iranian prison. This year we see that courage in the flesh." Rezaian was present at the dinner on Saturday in Washington, D.C.

You can watch Obama's full speech below.

Rezaian and his wife, Yeganah Salehi, who is also a reporter, were arrested in Tehran in July 2014 by Iranian authorities. Salehi was released a couple months later, but Rezaian was held (reportedly in solitary confinement) for nine months before charges against him were even announced.

Those charges included "espionage," and Rezaian, who was accused of passing information to American officials about Iran's nuclear program, was sentenced in November at a closed door trial to a prison term of undisclosed length.  

Rezaian is "a living testament to the very idea of a free press, and a reminder of the rising level of danger and political intimidation and physical threats faced by reporters overseas," Obama said Saturday, pledging to use his remaining days in office to fight for American journalists who are being held overseas against their will.  

Rezaian, 40, was released from Iran's notorious Evin Prison in January as part of a prisoner swap

--Hunter Stuart 


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