AAJA and UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc., jointly released the following statement on April 19 (cross-posted on FreeRoxana.net):
We are deeply troubled by the news that American journalist Roxana Saberi has been found guilty of espionage by an Iranian court and sentenced to eight years in prison. We continue to believe in her innocence and urge Iranian officials to exercise compassion in her treatment.
AAJA is particularly distressed by the length and severity of Ms. Saberi’s sentence, following a trial in which the evidence was secret. We are encouraged by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s statement to the chief Tehran prosecutor that “defendants be allowed all legal rights and freedom in defending themselves and that their rights are not violated even one iota.”
In addition to being allowed to present a full defense on appeal, we ask that she be released on bail pending her appeal. We call upon President Obama and Secretary Clinton, in their efforts to resolve this matter through the Swiss, to vigorously urge the Iranian government to pardon Ms. Saberi and allow her to return home to the United States with her family.
Ms. Saberi’s professionalism and integrity as a journalist has been cited by every news organization for whom she worked, and her commitment to adhering to high standards was evident to AAJA and UNITY members who worked with her as a young journalist.
The freedom to report the news serves the community of the world. It should not be suppressed by intimidation or imprisonment. With many news organizations reducing their foreign coverage, the public is more reliant than ever on the work of freelance journalists like Ms. Saberi to help us understand more fully the world we share.
We ask all those who share our support for Ms. Saberi and grave concerns for her well being to make their appeal for compassion known to Iranian and American authorities.
The stories Roxana reported from abroad are crucial to understanding U.S. foreign policy and what it means to be a citizen of the world. With many newsrooms cutting their foreign coverage, the public is more reliant than ever on the work of freelance journalists willing to risk their personal safety so we may know more. Roxana went abroad because of her commitment to tell stories that would otherwise go untold.