Roxana Saberi: Accidental tourist, accidental spy?

In the first news reports from Tehran, freelancer Roxana Saberi says the key point in her prosecution by Iran  was a confidential document she copied “out of curiosity” two years ago while working as a translator.

She didn’t do anything with the document. Didn’t pass it on to American authorities as Iranian officials alleged.

Perhaps she just wanted a souvenir.

I’m very happy for her family and for her that she’s safe.

But in her first interview after her ordeal, Saberi establishes herself as both accidental tourist, and accidental spy.

She’s still also one lucky accidental journalist. Continue reading Roxana Saberi: Accidental tourist, accidental spy?

Journalist as pawn—Roxana Saberi’s story?

A beautiful young freelance American  journalist with dual citizenship is held by Iran. After being jailed for buying a bottle of wine (illegal in Iran), she is convicted of espionage, and imprisoned for weeks before finally being freed this week.

Roxana Saberi is one  lucky gal.

Lucky she was worth more alive than dead to the Iranian government. Lucky that she had freelanced for some high powered news agencies. Lucky she was a former beauty queen—doesn’t hurt when competing for news space in all media.

It’s easy to cheer this journalistic feel-good story.

Unfortunately, it’s easier to imagine the unthinkable. Nearly 750 journalists have been killed or have died mysteriously over the last two decades all over the world, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists.

Saberi  must not have been doing all that much digging.  She was worth more to Iran to be freed as a P.R. gesture.

But is Iran more open? Are journalists treated differently there?  CPJ says at least six Iranian journalists were in prison during its last survey.

I wish it were different.  But it  seems Iran stills knows how to put journalists in their place.

In the end, what have we? No real advance for anyone. Journalists are stifled, and the  diplomats of the world gain nothing, except that Iran may want a favor in the future.

It’s all political showbiz, which makes it logical that the real bonanza may be for Hollywood.

Is this not a new vehicle for Angelina Jolie?

In the meantime, when Saberi does give her first interviews, I wonder if we’ll hear anything about  the two Asian American journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling working for Current TV.

The two were reporting on  North Korean immigration into China  and  have been held in a North Korean prison since March 17  when they were arrested–for being journalists.

Unlike Saberi, Lee and Ling have not been so lucky.

Roxana Saberi’s free, but mistreatment of journalists continues world-wide

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.

Emil Guillermo's amok commentary on race, politics, diversity…and everything else. It's Emil Amok's Takeout!

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