Instagram Bloggers Face 10 Years Imprisonment in Iran for Flying Drone Without Permission

Instagram Bloggers Face 10 Years Imprisonment in Iran for Flying Drone Without Permission

A couple who quit their jobs to go travel blogging have had their dream trip descend into a nightmare, after being detained in an Iranian jail. They are now facing up to ten years in prison after they flew a drone in Tehran without the correct license, but claim to have been unaware of the country’s strict drone operating policies.

Jolie King, a building designer, and her construction manager boyfriend Mark Firkin were caught operating the drone without permission back in July. Their families are speaking out to claim the entire situation is a "misunderstanding." The pair frequently post to their 21,000 Instagram followers after they quit their '9-5 grind' in order to travel the world together. They were traveling from their native Australia, heading across Asia and Europe before ending in London, all the while documenting their findings on the social media site.

Our biggest motivation behind the vlogs [video blogs] is to hopefully inspire anyone wanting to travel, and also try to break the stigma around travelling to countries which get a bad rap in the media.

It is reported they first arrived in Iran on June 30th, but a video they posted announcing they were there has since been removed.

The Times reports that the Iranian authorities informed King she was being detained in hope of a prisoner swap. They are currently awaiting trial in the Islamic Republic.

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54 Comments

Andrea Re Depaolini's picture

"but claim to have been unaware of the country’s strict drone operating policies" Well if they didn't know I'm sure the Iranian authorities will just let them go with an apology for having imprisoned them...

dean wilson's picture

Irony: "...try to break the stigma around travelling to countries which get a bad rap in the media." Other than that you really need to know the laws of where you are traveling. Probably would have had the same results in North Korea, just saying.

Simple internet search can save you 10 years in a Heart-Break Hotel:
https://www.cao.ir/web/english/rules-and-regulation

Mr Blah's picture

Can you read Arabic? Cuz this source has pdf only in arabic. Come down from your high horse...

dean wilson's picture

That's the point. If you don't know... find out.

For example: this past weekend I was on vacation on the Oregon Coast and on the spur of the moment I decided to check out a particular area that is not within the Oregon State Parks but belonged to a timber company. Recreational Permit Access Only.

Cell phone...Register. File for Access Permit. Print out pass and parking permit at the motel. 10 minutes and I was legal. Read the rules and was off the property by 8:31pm: one hour after sunset, as per rules.

Everything was safe and no high horses were fallen from.

S M's picture

Google “drone rules Iran” and the second policy is “don’t fly over the city of Tehran”.

How stupid/lazy were these 2 when it came to their research before traveling to an Islamic State?

Andrea Re Depaolini's picture

They obviously knew but didn't care thinking they were "smart". I guess a drone shot of a place that is forbidden gets you many Instagram followers so they tried their luck. The stupidest part is doing it in such a country,

Rayann Elzein's picture

Why "in such country"? As if it's a bad thing to have law and apply the punishments when said laws are not followed. If only drone regulations were actually enforced everywhere in the world, such people wouldn't think that it's OK to just fly anywhere.

Andrea Re Depaolini's picture

I absolutely agree with you, I was saying such countries implying they're stricter with the rules but I don't think it's a bad thing. Just maybe 10 years for this kind of crime seems too much but it's not an excuse for them

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

10 years in prison for flying a drone without permission??? Talking about a backwards mentality.

S M's picture

I agree.

Iranian woman tries to enter football stadium dressed as a man, not wearing a hijab. Security removes her from the stadium, she’s given a court appearance and faced 2 years in jail for the offense. She then lights herself on fire outside the courtroom. This was last week.

Their country. Their laws.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

Backwards is surely subjective but go ahead and defend their progressive laws.

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

You’re right, English is not my first language, Russian is. (Plenty of ground to cover there on not understanding the laws)
I’m with you on not understanding laws of any country but the punishment seems way too harsh, hence the choice of words on my part.

Dan Howell's picture

what kind of sentence would you expect if an Iranian national flew a drone over, say, the White House? I minutes worth of research on their part could have prevented it. Why are you giving them a pass?

Stas Aleksandersson's picture

I’m not giving them anything. I just think it’s fucked up to get 10 years for flying a drone. What would they get if they killed someone?

Rayann Elzein's picture

Probably the death penalty, why?

Rayann Elzein's picture

That's the law. Period.

Deleted Account's picture

Common sense alone will tell you that you don't need to know the drone laws in Iran to know that you shouldn't be flying any sort of camera equipment in that country.

Dave Dundas's picture

Common sense alone would tell you that maybe Iran isn't the best place for a Westerner to go at all right now... so, clearly, that was lacking from the start...

Deleted Account's picture

Oh the poor tourists who feel so superior and who do not respect the laws of the countries where they travel and are surprised that bad police officers throw them in jail...

Guy Incognito's picture

This has nothing to do with flying drones and everything to do with Iran's tendency to lock up foreigners on trumped up charges, usually vague allegations of espionage, in order to gain concessions from Western governments.

I guess they are finding out first hand why some of these places get "bad raps" in the media. Next time, stick to visiting countries not run by crackpot theocrats or despots.

Guy Incognito's picture

Link isn't working for me, I guess it is Iranian drone laws? If so...

I never suggested they had no laws or rules around flying drones, but no civilised or rational place incarcerates people - especially foreigners, especially in their in their worst jail (Evin) - because of drone-flying.

dean wilson's picture

Know before you go. It's that easy.

Guy Incognito's picture

You still think this is about flying a drone in the wrong place. It isn't.

Deleted Account's picture

"stick to visiting countries not run by crackpot theocrats or despots."
They exist?

Guy Incognito's picture

Every Western country? I do wonder if America is teetering, though.

Deleted Account's picture

In fact, and since the end of the Second World War, the country that has killed the most people in the world is certainly not Iran, China, Russia or North Korea...
I let you guess what country it is…
Oh, but yes, all this was only in the name of democracy!
It is time for some people to open their eyes a little and start asking themselves the right questions...

Guy Incognito's picture

China: The Great Leap Forward; millions dead because of Mao's cruel incompetence.

Russia (Soviet Union): Stalin's purges. Gulags bursting at the seams with every political, religious and ethnic group Uncle Joe arbitrarily decided worthy of liquidation.

Sorry, you historical revisionist, but the countries you mentioned are absolutely guilty of some of the worst atrocities of the 20th century. Often rivalling the Nazis in their cruelty and inhumanity.

Deleted Account's picture

My historical revisionism?

These are the numbers (will you accuse me of revisionism again?):
https://www.globalresearch.ca/us-has-killed-more-than-20-million-people-...
So answer whatever you want, I won't answer back. I do not wish to have any conversation with a moron of your kind.

Rayann Elzein's picture

That's why I avoid the USA.

Rayann Elzein's picture

You see, you're offended when I make the exact same point about the USA as the point that is made about Iran. Why won't you accept then that Iran could be a nice place to be if you just stick to the rules? ;)

Tom Jensen's picture

Ignorance of the law is not a defence anywhere.
Oh the things these two are going to learn if they want to eat every day in Iranian prison.

Benoit Pigeon's picture

I fought the law... the law won.

Deleted Account's picture

We're talking about 2 grownups here.
The 'oh I didn't know' might work in their nanny state home countries. We're dealing with a whole different kettle of fish here.

Moral of the story, you want to be an international blogvlog influencer, read the bloody rule books.

They'll get out, Iran will swap them for some prisoners elsewhere probably. Then they can go on to making their fame with their story.

Marc Perino's picture

They should handle it like Morocco. If you enter the country with a drone it gets confiscated. If you declare it on entry you might get it back. At least there is no jailtime involved.
But then again - they need assets to bargain with.

Billy Walker's picture

Can someone tell me why someone who lives in a free country such as Australia would go to a country like Iran? Others have headed to North Korea. If you want to play with fire, I've got one thing to say... you have found it.

Rayann Elzein's picture

Iran is an amazingly beautiful country, and Iranians are some of the nicest, most welcoming people in the world. Why wouldn't you want to live such an experience? Why wouldn't you go spend a few bucks there and help them to get some income from tourism and try to live a decent life, now that President Trump decided to treat them like dogs?
Just read the f*cking rules before travelling to any country if you don't want to get into trouble.

Rayann Elzein's picture

I just stated a fact. Iranians had it a lot better until the US one-sidedly withdrew from the treaty. That's just a fact, even if you don't like it, that's how it is. And if you haven't heard of the French president, just get out of your cave ;)

S M's picture

I’m sure all Baha’i believe the politics in Iran are fair and equal too!

Guy Incognito's picture

I assume people see it as trendy to go to places most people won't visit. Another one of my fellow citizens was recently detained in N. Korea & everyone freaked out.

Blake Aghili's picture

Because Iran is beautiful. Your problem is that you cannot distinguish between geography, culture, art and a dictator theocrat regime.

Timothy Turner's picture

I have no reason or desire to leave the USA, sure their are beautiful places all over the world, but given the political environment today and how Americans are hated in other countries, you have to be careful, in this case their is an old saying "if you could have known, you should have known" I am not defending other countries laws, but they are their laws.

davidlovephotog's picture

Just assume that everywhere it's not illegal to fly a drone and you should be safe cause that's where it's headed. If you're caught vaping while flying a drone it's a life sentence. Instead go get you an AR-15 assault rifle cause those are fine to own and shoot with apparently.

Timothy Turner's picture

All backwards isn't it

Erpillar Bendy's picture

deleted.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

This couple needs SUPPORT and sympathy from the creative community, not condemnation and ridicule. Where are all the big photography/videography YouTubers with their million+ followers to speak for this couple's speedy release? Why are they silent?

One thing is clear: the law and order types are well represented in the comments here. Their only takeaway from this article is: couple broke the law; so prison they deserve! No thought is given to due process or to what is a just punishment for the creative act of making beautiful drone videos without a permit (allegedly). So what if that's the worst thing you do in your life.

Erpillar Bendy's picture

P.S. This was not intended as a reply to David Love. Not sure why my comment appears as a reply and not as an independent comment.

Sandro Loos's picture

And how often are you going to call for the community if there are idiots everywhere in the world breaking the laws of the country they visit? Every time someone breaks a law because of "not knowing" we just call for the community and that person gets a free pass?

Erpillar Bendy's picture

So you're in favor of indefinite, lengthy prison for them? You just don't care what happens to them? They've been in jail for MONTHS. Surely that's punishment enough, not any sort of "free pass". But perhaps you think the punishment should be much more harsh, or you want to defend that government's treatment of them, prison without trial, etc.? Perhaps you think that flying a drone is some terrible thing deserving of YEARS in prison? God help you if you ever get accused of using your drone or camera without permission.

Dave Dundas's picture

No I think the punishment is excessive in the extreme, however, it was a published easily discovered law that they should have known before flying a drone in that country. It's not a story about how Iran's laws seem harsh to people (they are), this is a story about how stupid people got themselves into a wholly avoidable situation by being idiots in the first place. There is no reason for the community to bail them out in any way, in fact, providing cover for these idiots only makes "the community" look just as stupid. Again, 10 years for this "crime" is ridiculous, however, they can make any laws they like (just like your country's govt!), if you don't want to be caught violating that law, then don't!

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