Iran Releases Vloggers Jailed for Flying Drone Near Military Installation

Two travel vloggers who were jailed over the summer in Iran for flying a drone near a military installation without permission have just been released.

The vloggers are Jolie King and Mark Firkin, of Perth, Australia, and their vlog is called “The Way Overland.”

It appears that Australian officials negotiated their release by swapping them for an Iranian prisoner being held in Australia, although the Australian government will not confirm whether this is true.

But the timing supports this theory. Around the same time that the two Australians were released in Iran, an Iranian being held in Australia was also released.

The Iranian is 38-year old doctoral student Reza Dehbashi Kivi. Kivi was being held for allegedly attempting to export U.S.-made radar equipment to Iran, in violation of U.S. sanctions against the country. He faced twenty years in prison and was fighting extradition to the U.S.

Although media outlets have been reporting that the two vloggers were arrested for flying a drone without a permit in Iran, it is our understanding that there is a blanket ban on flying a drone anywhere in Iran, with special emphasis on Tehran, as well as near military facilities and other sensitive infrastructure, like police stations.

Either way, it’s important to do your research before flying your drone in a foreign country.

If you’re uncertain about the laws, make sure to contact the proper aviation authorities. Our list of drone laws in countries throughout the world has contact information for every aviation authority we could find.

About the Vloggers’ Arrest

According to the Iranian government, King and Firkin were arrested in Tehran in July after flying a hobby drone with a camera attached to it near a military installation.

The two were reportedly being held in Tehran’s Evin prison, a place known for torture and executions. Jason Rezaian of the Washington Post was held in the Evin prison for two years and reported “being tortured with the constant threat of death from his captors,” according to Gizmodo.

The two Australians started The Way Overland after quitting their jobs to travel in July of 2017. Their goal was to visit 36 countries via an overland route from Australia to the U.K. and document the trip along the way, with support from donations made on the crowdfunding platform Patreon.

But after posting in June of this summer from Pakistan, their social media accounts went dark (they’d been active on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram).

For three months there were no new posts. In early September, Pouria Zeraati, who is editor-in-chief of the Persian-language media outlet Manoto News, broke the story that the two vloggers had been arrested in Iran.

Zeraati reported that the Australians had been jailed in July but their identities had been withheld until September because the Iranian government had not yet publicly acknowledged the arrests.

About The Way Overland

Jolie King and Mark Firkin launched The Way Overland as an ambitious plan to travel by land from their home in Cottesloe, Western Australia all the way to the U.K. (Of course, they did have to ship their car at times.)

the-way-overland-map


From The Way Overland website

At the time of their arrest in Iran they were about two years into their journey. They had already traveled extensively, having visited (among others) the following countries: Timor-Leste, Indonesia, Sumatra, Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, India, and Pakistan.

Here is the last video the couple posted from Pakistan before being arrested:

​Since being released they have not put out any new content.

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