Updates On Euna Lee, Laura Ling, And Roxana Saberi

Sunday, April 19, 2009

In pasts post or newsbytes you've heard me talk about Euna Lee, Laura Ling, and Roxana Saberi - all Asian American journalists being held captive. Here's the latest news on what's going on:

Iranian President Asks Court to Reconsider Spy Case

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, in a rare effort to intervene in the justice system, urged Tehran’s chief prosecutor on Sunday to fairly examine the cases of an Iranian-American journalist and an Iranian-Canadian blogger. The Iranian-American journalist, Roxana Saberi, has been sentenced to eight years in prison on charges of spying for Washington, her lawyer reported Saturday. The other detainee is Hossein Derakhshan, a blogger who has been jailed since November without any official charges.

Mr. Ahmadinejad, who will be attending an international conference on racism on Monday and is expected to seek re-election in June, may be seeking to cast himself as a defender of human rights, analysts said. He may also be trying to prevent radical forces from sabotaging a possible reconciliation between Iran and the United States. President Obama, speaking at a news conference in Trinidad on Sunday, said he was “gravely concerned” about Ms. Saberi’s safety and called for her release.

“She is an American citizen, and I have complete confidence that she was not engaging in any sort of espionage,” Mr. Obama said, adding that the United States would ask Iran for “a proper disposition of this case.”
Current TV reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee face jail in North Korea

In a state “guest house” on the outskirts of Pyongyang, Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been held for more than a month: valuable pawns in an growing international nuclear stand-off. Hanging over the heads of the American journalists is the possibility of a show trial and ten years in a notoriously harsh North Korean prison camp. The outside world knows little about how they are holding up — because North Korea is not saying and the United States, while trying to free them through diplomacy, has tried to impose a blanket of silence [...]

The US State Department has said that it is making every diplomatic effort to free the two women and Mr Gore is said to have contacted Hillary Clinton, the Secretary of State, to ask for her assistance. The US has no embassy in North Korea but a representative of the Swedish Embassy in Pyongyang is said to have seen the journalists at the end of last month.
Asian American Journalists Association deeply concerned and disappointed

A statement from Sharon Chan, national president of the Asian American Journalists Association:

We are deeply concerned and disappointed at the sentencing of Roxana Saberi.

Our thoughts and prayers are with her and her family. We are distressed at the severity of her sentence, that her trial was held in secret without transparency and that her confession may have been coerced, according to her father. We urge that the Iranian government show compassion, and release her to be reunited with her family pending her appeal.

By all accounts of people who know her and who have worked with her — Roxana is a journalist, not a spy. An American of Iranian and Japanese descent, she crossed borders to report stories that shined a light into distant corners of the world. Her work was carried by NPR, the BBC and ABC News, organizations committed to fair, accurate and independent journalism.

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.

With her unique cultural background, she brought a nuanced perspective to her stories. Roxana was devoted to discovering Iran, its culture and its people and sharing her knowledge with others.It is not and should not be a crime to be a journalist.
So what does it all mean?

It's the same as before.

We don't really know much - and we can't really do much about it.