The arrest of a Canadian reporter/filmmaker in Iran brought strong words from Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Monday, who called for the immediate release of Newsweek‘s Maziar Bahari.
The 41-year-old reporter and documentarian – described by a fellow docmaker as shrewd and ‘extremely cautious’ — was according to Newsweek arrested by Iranian security forces on Sunday amid the bloody protests that rocked that country over the weekend. He has not been heard from since.
His credits include, coincidentally, a National Film Board doc on the difficult conditions faced by reporters in Iraq, made in 2005 by Montreal’s Triplex Films.
Harper urged Iranian authorities ‘to immediately cease the use of violence against their own people, to release all political prisoners and journalists – including Canadians – who have been unjustly detained.’ He added that Tehran must ‘allow Iranian and foreign media to report freely on these historic events.’
According to reports, Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon is to meet Iran’s top diplomat in Canada to express his concern over the situation, while diplomatic officials in Tehran work to gain access to Bahari.
Bahari’s film credits include directing the doc Targets: Reporters in Iraq about the kidnappings and other perils faced by journalists working in Iran’s next-door neighbor during the height of its recent turmoil.
‘He’s a very in-depth, balanced reporter,’ says producer Josette Gauthier, recalling the perilous shoot. ‘He’s cautious, he’s not a cowboy.’
‘He did take risks – that’s the sort of journalist he is – but he knew when and where to apply them,’ she says. Based on their work together, and his familiarity with the dangers in his native Iran, Gauthier expressed doubt that Bahari would do anything to provoke an arrest.
‘I don’t think in this case it was anything he did,’ she says.
Bahari is a dual citizen of Canada and Iran. He moved to Canada in 1988 to study film and political science, earning a degree from Montreal’s Concordia University, and maintains a home in Toronto, according to Newsweek. He shared a Gemini nomination in 1996 for writing the history doc The Voyage of the St. Louis.