Over the past few months, Washington Post reporters, hundreds of whom work across the globe, have been arrested in exactly two cities: Tehran, Iran, and Ferguson, Missouri, United States of America. That should tell you something about the ongoing crisis in Ferguson.
On Wednesday, Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery was reportedly arrested along with Ryan Reilly of the Huffington Post for failing to exit a McDonalds. According to Lowery's Twitter account, the two were "assaulted and arrested" because "officers decided we weren't leaving McDonalds quickly enough, shouldn't have been taping them." No charges were filed.
Lowery is the second Post reporter to have been arrested in the past few months. The first was three weeks earlier and several thousand miles away in Tehran, the capital city of Iran. On July 22, plainclothes police stormed into the home of Washington Post Tehran bureau chief Jason Rezaian to arrest him and his wife, who is also a journalist. As in Ferguson, no charges have been filed in Tehran.
The Washington Post is one of the most respected media outlets in the world (full disclosure: it is also my former employer), and its many reporters can trust that this stature will, if nothing else, keep them safe. It was rightly treated as major international news when Rezaian and his wife were arrested by Iranian authorities. So what does it say that the second Post reporter to be arrested was picked up by heavily armed police in a midwestern town in the US?
One major difference, of course, is that Lowery was quickly released, whereas Rezaian has been detained now for weeks. Jason is a friend, and I worry about him and his wife constantly in a way that I would not worry about Lowery. Still, the fact that these are the two cities in the world where Washington Post reporters can be arrested for simple acts of journalism tells us much about the severity of events in Missouri.