You’ve probably heard of Roxana Saberi, an Iranian-American radio journalist and author convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran for spying. Both her family and Washington insist that the allegations are unfounded.
Saberi marked her 32nd birthday in jail last week, and yesterday her father, Reza Saberi said that she was now into her second week on a hunger strike, in which she takes only sugared water, and that despite the health threats would keep up her protest until she is released.
This BBC report details her current situation.
A global movement has sprung up to protest Saberi’s detention. You can find numerous suggestions for helping win her release at FreeRoxana.net. The Committee to Protect Journalists is also conducting an international campaign on her behalf mobilizing activists worldwide to send letters to Iranian officials calling for Saberi’s release.
You may also have read about the cases of two reporters for Current TV, Euna Lee and Laura Ling (the latter the sister of The View host Lisa Ling), charged with similar crimes in North Korea and facing just as difficult and veiled a judicial process. They were arrested on March 17 near the North Korean border while reporting on refugees living in China. North Korean officials said on March 31 that the reporters would be indicted on charges of “illegal entry” and perpetrating “hostile acts” against the Communist state.
President Obama said last Friday that his administration was “especially concerned” about the detention of the journalists.
“We are… especially concerned about the citizens from our own country currently under detention abroad: individuals such as Roxana Saberi in Iran, and Euna Lee and Laura Ling in North Korea,” Obama said in a statement marking World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
But concerned bloggers have countered by calling on Obama to demand that both North Korea and Iran free these journalists immediately. Gotham Chopra recently suggested ways to help the three detainees in an article on the Huffington Post.
There’s also a Facebook page on behalf of Saberi and a Free Roxanna Twitter feed, which will keep you abreast of her case and how you can continue to help. And despite the fact that supporters of Lee and Ling seem to be taking a quieter, back-channel approach in their efforts to free them, an unofficial Facebook page in support of Lee and Ling is also chronicling updates on the case.
Saberi, Lee and Ling’s detentions underscore the critical importance of a functional, independent media and shows to what lengths governments still go to silence reporters. As Thomas Jefferson famously said 222 years ago:
“The basis of our governments being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right; and were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter.”
This quote has been widely employed by writers recently seeking to establish the importance of print, and numerous bloggers like TechDirt and Hi. I’m Mike have rightly retorted that our third president was talking about journalism, not strictly newspapers. So it’s safe to assume that Jefferson would consider the arrests of TV journalists Lee and Ling and radio reporter Saberi as threats to democracy which we all would do well to protest and combat.