September 20, 2020

Missing Al Jazeera Reporter Dorothy Parvaz Is Freed

Her fiancé, Todd Barker, told The Canadian Press news agency that she had called him “out of the blue” as she cleared customs after flying into Doha from Iran on Wednesday and had told him she was “treated very well, she was interrogated, but she’s fine.”

“When you don’t hear from someone you love for 19 days,” he was quoted as saying, “you don’t know if they are dead, don’t know if they are alive, you don’t know if they are being tortured.”

News of her release emerged a day after Tehran said it was pursuing unspecified information about Ms. Parvaz. It was not clear what considerations had prompted her release, and Iranian officials made no immediate comment on the development.

But IRNA, an official Iranian news agency, said in a separate dispatch on Wednesday that an Iranian envoy had delivered a message from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to the Qatari ruler, Sheik Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani, seeking closer ties with the Doha government.

Ms. Parvaz disappeared upon arrival in Syria last month on an assignment to cover antigovernment protests. Her whereabouts remained unknown until Syrian officials acknowledged a week ago that they had sent her to Iran because, they said, she had traveled to Syria on an expired Iranian passport.

On Tuesday, Iran said Iranian-born Ms. Parvaz, 39, who holds American, Canadian and Iranian citizenship, had committed “several offenses,” including traveling without a valid passport. Iranian passport-holders may enter Syria without a visa, The Associated Press reported, but American and Canadian nationals do require visas. Iran does not recognize multiple nationalities for its citizens, The A.P. said.

Syria and Iran routinely restrict access by journalists and few foreign reporters have been allowed to travel openly to Syria since an uprising began in March.

Up until Wednesday, Ms. Parvaz had had no known communication with her employer, friends or family.

On its English-language Web site on Wednesday, Al Jazeera quoted its own spokesman as saying Ms. Parvaz “has been in contact with her family and we are with her now to find out more about her ordeal over the last 18 days.”

Before her release, Mr. Barker, a lawyer working in Luxembourg, said Ms. Parvaz had not contacted her family since she was sent to Iran, and that he assumed she had been detained.

“In other cases involving journalists detained in Iran, the journalist has been allowed to speak with family relatively quickly after being detained,” Mr. Barker said. “I urge Iranian officials to allow Dorothy to contact her family.”

On Tuesday, the Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman, Ramin Mehmanparast, had offered no detail on Ms. Parvaz’s precise whereabouts. He also did not say whether Ms. Parvaz had even been detained. But he called her case “important.”

At a Tehran news conference, which was reported by Iran’s state-run press, Mr. Mehmanparast called on journalists to “avoid problems” by following the rules. The authorities in Iran and Syria, close political allies, have little tolerance for antigovernment protests in their own countries and both restrict outside press coverage.

Al Jazeera had said earlier that Ms. Parvaz appears to have been in Iranian custody since May 1, when Syria deported her. But the news organization, which is based in Qatar, said it had received no official word on her location or condition from Iranian authorities despite repeated requests. Iran’s foreign minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, said on Saturday that he had “no information” regarding Ms. Parvaz, according to IRNA.

Iran had at least 34 reporters in custody at the end of last year, more than any other country besides China, according most recent available numbers from the Committee to Protect Journalists, a press advocacy group.

Al Jazeera said Ms. Parvaz was an experienced journalist who joined the broadcaster in 2010. “She graduated from the University of British Columbia, completed a masters degree in Arizona and held journalism fellowships at both Harvard and Cambridge,” the broadcaster said. “She previously worked as a columnist and feature writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.”

Alan Cowell reported from London and J. David Goodman from New York.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=4e2770c7e211c70a6df24ba10bb81798

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