It’s a good week that begins with the release of Roxana Saberi, an Asian American freelance journalist held in an Iranian prison since March for espionage.
Reports source her lawyer who said the Court of Appeal in Teheran has ruled to reduce her sentence from eight to two years, creating the possibility for a suspended sentence for Saberi, born in the U.S. to an Iranian father and Japanese mother.
Saberi’s arrest and her subsequent espionage conviction has been a baffler. Saberi was there to do a book on Iranian pop culture and was unlikely a “spy” in the George Bush-CIA-traditional sense, but as our envoy providing real information about a country where the truth is intentionally layered, shrouded and buried.
She was doing the work of a journalist– the most dangerous and threatening job imaginable to individuals, institutions, and governments that would rather control the truth to their liking.
I’m happy for Saberi’s release. It’s not easy being a journalist without a big news organization backing your search for the truth. But the treatment toward Saberi is not isolated. There are at least five other Iranian journalists imprisoned in Iran, according to the most recent census by the Committee to Protect Journalists. Unlike Saberi, there is little hue and cry over their imprisonment.
Indeed, journalists worldwide have met fates far worse than prison. The CPJ puts the number of journalists who have been killed in the last 17 years at 734.
One of them was my buddy Chauncey Bailey who was killed in 2007 in Oakland.
Normally, they don’t kill journalists in America.
But in many countries, journalists , including bloggers, have been killed. In Burma and China, bloggers disappear after writing their on-line stories. In the Philippines more than 24 journalists have been murdered mysteriously in the last decade, their cases go unsolved. The record makes the Philippines’ the deadliest peacetime democracy where one can practice journalism.
That’s what happens when journalism is about life and death.
Here in America, they don’t bother killing the journalists. Just their newspapers.