An Australian couple in Iran were detained for breaking a law forbidding the flying of drones without a proper permit, according to new details that have emerged about the incident.
The couple, an Australian-British woman and her Australian boyfriend, were arrested some 10 weeks ago in Iran, British and Australian media have reported. On Wednesday, Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) confirmed that it has been providing consular assistance to the families of three Australians detained in Iran, and it is believed that the duo is among those three.
While Canberra refused to disclose the identities of its citizens, and has not revealed the reason for their arrest, the mainstream media feasted on the reports, portraying the couple as innocent tourists thrown into a “notorious Tehran prison” after they camped out at a military area around Jajrood.
Fresh reports suggest that the couple was detained specifically for flying a drone near the capital, Tehran, thus violating an Iranian law banning the operation of this type of device without a government-issued license.
London-based Persian-language Manoto TV reported that the couple “were unaware” of the law, and their family blames a “misunderstanding” for their arrest.
The pair, identified in media reports as Jolie King and Mark Firkin, were prolific travel bloggers who had traveled through Asia documenting their journey on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. Their last stop before Iran was Pakistan.
One of the goals the couple had reportedly set for the themselves was to “break the stigma around traveling to countries which get a bad rap in the media,” the Australian reported.
With mainstream media taking the bloggers’ side and using the incident to take yet another shot at Tehran, some pointed out that ignorance of the law has never been an excuse, no matter the country.
“Is there a stigma around following laws of the nation you’re traveling to? Or a stigma around doing research?” a tweeter wrote.
Is there a stigma around following laws of the nation you're travelling to? Or a stigma around doing research? Having said that I'm sure they'll be released once it's all cleared up
— 💧Jan🐟 (@Jan14531) September 11, 2019
“A cautionary tale about breaking laws you didn’t know about,” another tweeted, noting that it’s standard practice for a country to regulate the use of drones, as they can be used for surveillance purposes and disrupt air traffic.
Many countries have laws regulating drone use, because they can be used for surveillance and can interfere with air traffic. If you're travelling with a drone, make sure you know the rules!
— Brett Debritz (@debritz) September 12, 2019
“Wouldn’t you get arrested in Sydney if you flew a drone without approval and inappropriately?” a commenter chimed in, while another called the spin that media put on the affair an example of “the usual West hypocrisy for propaganda.”
Breaking bad rap?! what type of fool you take us for? who instructed them to fly a drone? where did they get the drone from? let me tell you why? the usual West hypocrisy for propaganda.
— Harry Percyvale (@Percyvale1) September 11, 2019