Vloggers arrested in Iran for flying a drone have been freed

Two Australian vloggers who were thrown in jail for allegedly flying a drone without permission in Iran have been released.

Mark Firkin and Jolie King, both from Perth, had been posting videos regularly on YouTube and social media sites as they documented their trip from Australia to the United Kingdom. But the journey came to an abrupt end in Iran in July 2019 when they were arrested for allegedly flying a drone without a permit near to a military facility.

Their release was the result of “an apparent prisoner swap,” according to the Guardian, which reported how an Iranian doctoral student, detained in a Brisbane jail on suspicion of breaking sanctions on Iran and wanted for extradition by the United States, was freed at around the same time.

Marise Payne, Australia’s foreign affairs minister, described talks to secure the couple’s release as “very sensitive,” adding, “The ordeal they have been through is now over, they are being reunited with their loved ones.”

Questioned as to whether Firkin and King’s release was indeed the result of a prisoner swap, Australia’s attorney general, Christian Porter, would only say that the government “does not comment on the details behind its consideration of particular cases.”

travel vloggers detained in iran for flying a drone without permission
Vloggers Mark Firkin and Jolie King. The Way Overland

Adventure

Firkin and King quit their jobs in 2017 to begin what was supposed to be the trip of a lifetime taking in multiple countries as they made their way from Australia to the U.K more than 9,000 miles away.

The two vloggers documented their experiences on their YouTube channel, The Way Overland, as well as on Facebook and Instagram.

Many of their videos contain drone footage showing the places they visited, which included Bali, Java, Malaysia, Cambodia, India, and Pakistan.

When news of the couple’s detention went public in September, reactions on social media were varied, with some people calling for their quick release and others castigating them for apparently breaking the law in a country well-known for its strict penal code.

Firkin and King’s experience brings to mind a similar case earlier this year when a French tourist was jailed in Myanmar for a month for flying a drone without permission.

Such incidents are a reminder to anyone with a quadcopter or similar machine — whether using it at home or overseas — to always check local laws before sending it skyward.

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