The Asian American Journalists Association (AAJA) and UNITY: Journalists of Color today demanded the immediate release of Roxana Saberi, a professional journalist, master’s student in international relations, and U.S. citizen, who has been arrested and detained by authorities in Iran without any charges announced. AAJA calls for Saberi to be treated fairly, be allowed regular contact with her family, and have access to an attorney.
“Her situation is a palpable reminder that journalists are at risk in parts of the world where freedom of the press is not protected,” said AAJA Executive Director Ellen Endo.
Saberi, 31, is a freelance journalist working and studying in Iran when she was detained in late January. She is of Iranian and Japanese descent, with dual citizenship in the U.S. and Iran. She joined AAJA as a student member in 1999, serving as an intern covering the UNITY Convention in Seattle. She was a member through 2004, when she attended the UNITY Convention in Washington, D.C., as a Tehran correspondent/bureau chief for the television news service Feature Story News. Her stories have been carried by National Public Radio and other media. As a professional journalist, she also covered events in Afghanistan.
Media reports initially stated that Saberi told her father she was arrested when buying a bottle of wine, but her father believes she is being detained as a journalist. Her U.S. residence with her family is in Fargo, N.D.
The U.S. State Department has learned that Saberi has been detained under judicial order. According to news reports from Iran, Judiciary spokesman Alireza Jamshidi said at a news conference yesterday that Saberi is being held in Evin prison in Tehran on the orders of the revolutionary court. The revolutionary court handles issues of state security as well as other areas of law. Evin prison known as a place where political prisoners are held.
“I don’t know anything about the charges against her,” Jamshidi is quoted as saying in a Reuters story.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton stated, “The State Department has reached out to our Swiss contacts to ask for information and express our deep concern about this young woman’s fate. We are going to use every tool at our disposal to try to bring her home.”
Saberi’s father told the global news agency AFP yesterday, “We are happy at least they are acknowledging she is in the prison.” Saberi has had no contact with her family since Feb. 10. “We have been very anxious and worried because they kept us completely in the dark.”