By: Michael Bruckler, St. Mary’s College of Maryland
In July of 2014, Jason Rezaian and his wife were detained in their Iranian home and he went on to spend 544 days in Tehran’s Evin prison, released on the same day that the historic nuclear deal between Iran and world powers was implemented. On Wednesday, October 23 at 7 p.m., former U.S. correspondent Rezaian will deliver the Benjamin C. Bradlee Distinguished Lecture in Journalism on the topic of his book, “Prisoner” (Anthony Bourdain Books, 2019).
The lecture will be held in Auerbach Auditorium of St. Mary’s Hall on the St. Mary’s College of Maryland campus. Presented by the Center for the Study of Democracy, a joint project of St. Mary’s College of Maryland and Historic St. Mary’s City, this event is free of charge and open to the public but registration is recommended. An audience question and answer, and book sale and signing will follow the lecture.
Rezaian is one of the few Western journalists to have been based in Tehran in recent years. From 2009 until his arrest in 2014, he covered stories that tried to explain Iran to a general American audience, first as a freelancer for a variety of outlets and later as The Washington Post’s Tehran bureau chief.
He reported on two presidential elections, Iran’s nuclear negotiations with global powers, the effects of one of the most punitive regimes in modern times, and environmental issues. In between those momentous topics, he told the stories of everyday Iranians which sought to make them more accessible to readers, reporting on Iran’s small community of baseball players, the quest for the best high-end hamburger in Tehran, and a clinic for female drug addicts.
“Prisoner” is the dramatic memoir of Rezaian’s ordeal of being held hostage in the high-security prison in Tehran for eighteen months. The New York Times Review of Books called it “more than just a memoir that reads like a thriller. It’s also an intimate family history, an anguished love letter to an ancient and broken homeland, and a spirited defense of journalism and truth at a time when both are under attack almost everywhere.”
Since his release, Rezaian has been a vocal advocate for press freedom around the world, as well as for Americans falsely imprisoned abroad. He is the winner of numerous awards including the Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the National Press Club’s John Aubuchon Press Freedom Award, James W. Foley Legacy Foundation’s Press Freedom Award, Arthur Ross Media Award for Reporting from the American Academy of Diplomacy, and The Radio Television Digital News Foundations First Amendment Award.
Established by former Washington Post executive editor and College trustee Benjamin Bradlee, this lecture series has brought many notable journalists to St. Mary’s, including Bob Woodward, David Broder, Tom Brokaw, Robin Wright, Richard Cohen, Tony Kornheiser, David Ignatius, Gwen Ifill, Neil Irwin, Cokie Roberts, and Carl Bernstein.
The Center for the Study of Democracy, directed by Dr. Antonio Ugues Jr. associate professor of political science at St. Mary’s College, explores contemporary and historical issues associated with the ideas of democracy, liberty, and justice in national and international contexts. It supports research that enhances our understanding of liberal democracy and its critics. The Center facilitates activities that strengthen democracy and the rule of law; enhance security and individual freedoms; invigorate the civil society; encourage free enterprise; and increase economic, environmental, educational and cultural equity.