Journalist Jason Rezaian made an appearance at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner Saturday night.
Rezaian, 40, is a California-born Iranian-American who worked as the Washington Post’s bureau chief in Iran’s capital before he was arrested on accusations of espionage in July 2014.
Rezaian’s wife, Yeganeh Salehi, who is also a journalist was arrested with him, and freed three months later, but Rezaian was convicted and jailed for 18 months. He was released last January.
President Obama honored Rezaian at last year’s correspondents’ dinner.
This year, Rezaian addressed Obama, and an audience of his peers, directly.
“This is a big intimidating room, but I can say that it beats solitary confinement,” Rezaian quipped.
During his confinement, Rezaian had become a symbol of the importance of press freedom — a bulwark of American democracy — but far less valued in more hostile regions of the world.
Obama met Rezaian and Salehi at the State Department shortly after his release last year. The two met again on stage at the Washington Hilton hotel Saturday where Obama took another opportunity to underline the importance of journalistic freedom.
“Free press is once again why we honour Jason Rezaian,” Obama said. He applauded Rezaian’s courage in enduring his imprisonment. “This year, we see that courage in the flesh,” Obama added.
Rezaian will spend the next year as a Nieman journalism fellow at Harvard University, according to the Boston Globe.
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