Born in the United States as Melanie Franklin, Hashemi was arrested on landing at St. Louis international airport on 13 January and is now being held at a detention centre in Washington DC. She has lived in Iran since 1982, where she is married to an Iranian and has worked for Press TV since 2008.
The FBI declined to answer RSF’s questions about the reason for her arrest, referring queries to the Department of Justice press office. In an interview for Press TV on 16 January, her son Hossein Hashemi said she had not been formally charged and was being held as a “material witness.”
She appeared in court on 18 January and, according to the IRIB World Service website, a second hearing is scheduled for 23 January.
“The US judicial authorities must announce the charges they plan to bring against this journalist,” said Reza Moini, the head of RSF’s Iran desk. “The opaqueness surrounding her detention is unacceptable. Marzieh Hashemi’s fundamental rights must be guaranteed.”
This is the first time that a journalist working for Iranian media has been detained in this manner by the United States. Several journalists with dual nationality have been detained in Iran and then swapped for intelligence operatives detained in other countries or for ransom. This was the case with Roxana Saberi and Jason Rezaian.
The United States is ranked 45th out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2018 World Press Freedom Index, while Iran is ranked 164th.