Iran's foreign ministry spokesman said Tuesday that Dorothy Parvaz — a correspondent for Al-Jazeera who Syrian officials last week said they deported to Tehran — had committed several violations, but stopped short of admitting she is being held in Iran.
The remarks by Ramin Mehmanparast were the first from Iran on the fate of the 39-year-old Parvaz, who has been missing since she left Al-Jazeera's headquarters in Doha, Qatar, on April 29, for Syria.
Mehmanparast said Parvaz, who also holds American and Canadian citizenship, "traveled to Syria with expired Iranian passport, planned to work without a press permit and had several passports on her."
Mehmanparast said Iran was "following the issue" and that what happened to Parvaz was "important to us, too."
He didn't elaborate or offer any evidence.
The Iranian-born reporter, who spent her teen years in Canada and studied and worked in the U.S., has Iranian, Canadian and U.S. citizenship.
She used her Iranian passport to enter Syria because she couldn't enter with either of the others.
Her fiance, Todd Barker, has told The Associated Press that Parvaz was determined to go to Syria.
"Nothing I could say would change her mind," Barker said in an article published Saturday. "I could tell by the tone of her voice that it was gonna happen. She is very committed. She believes reporting the truth is a force to make people's lives better and she lives and breathes that."
The next day, Barker heard nothing from his fiancee, whom he normally communicates with several times a day.
"I went to bed on the 29th and I couldn't sleep," he said. "I had this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach. And then I got the call from Al-Jazeera at 3 a.m. It was like a nuclear bomb exploding in your life."
On May 4, Al-Jazeera said Syrian authorities confirmed she was detained.
On May 10, Syria said she had not been in the country for more than a week.
A day later, the government said she had been deported to Tehran, Iran, following her detention in Damascus, the Syrian capital.
Syria has imposed a media blackout intended to limit coverage of the unrest by refusing to issue visas to foreign journalists and preventing access to trouble spots. President Bashar Assad — and his state-run media — have blamed the unrest on terrorist groups and foreign agitators.
The Committee to Protect Journalists has said that since the social unrest erupted in Syria in March, about 20 local and international journalists have been physically assaulted, detained or expelled.
Two Associated Press journalists were expelled from the country with 45 minutes' notice. Five Reuters journalists also faced detention and intimidation, including one who was expelled by Syrian authorities on March 25 after five years as the agency's correspondent in Damascus.
If Syria has sent Parvaz to Iran, that could reinforce allegations that Iranian authorities are working closely with Assad's government to crack down on protesters and choke off independent media coverage.
A statement by Al-Jazeera urged Iranian authorities to provide details on Parvaz, who works for the news network's English-language channel. The network said it is "deeply concerned" for Parvaz's welfare.
The State Department in Washington also expressed concern and said it was striving to get further details. Department spokesman Mark Toner said U.S. officials were seeking assistance from Swiss diplomats who represent U.S. interests in Iran.