Iran Detains U.S. Journalist
- Iranian Authorities Detain U.S. Journalist
By Thomas Erdbrink
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, March 3, 2009; A09
TEHRAN, March 2 -- Iran's Foreign Ministry said Monday that an American Iranian freelance journalist who, according to her family, was detained more than a month ago, had been working in the country illegally.
Roxana Saberi's Iranian-born father, who lives in Fargo, N.D., said
Sunday that his daughter has been held in Iran since Jan. 31 and that
there has been no information about her fate since she called nearly
three weeks ago and told him she had been detained for buying a bottle
Foreign Ministry spokesman Hassan Qashqavi said that the Ministry of
Islamic Guidance and Culture had revoked Saberi's credentials in 2007.
"She shouldn't have tried to gather news and information on Iran
illegally," Qashqavi told reporters Monday, according to the state news agency IRNA.
He did not say why Saberi's credentials had been revoked or whether she was in prison.
Saberi, 31, was born in the United States but also holds an Iranian
passport. She had reported from Iran for the BBC, National Public Radio and other news organizations before her press card was revoked.
Iran does not acknowledge dual nationality. Legally, Saberi is not
regarded here as either a foreign citizen or a reporter from the United States but as an Iranian engaged in activities for foreign news media.
U.S. news media have increased their presence in Iran in recent years,
with 15 representatives now in the country. The Washington Post has had a bureau in Tehran since August.
Officials here point out that the United States does not accredit
Iranian journalists. The only official Iranian reporter in the United
States is a correspondent for state broadcaster IRIB, who is accredited by the United Nations in New York and is not allowed to travel more than 25 miles from that city.
Saberi moved to Iran six years ago. In an interview with NPR, her
father, Reza Saberi, said that when he spoke to her Feb. 10, she said
she had been in detention for 10 days.
"She called from an unknown place and said she's been kept in
detention," he said.
Saberi grew up in Fargo, where she was an accomplished high school
soccer player and pianist. In 1997, she was named Miss North Dakota.
Since moving to Iran, she had been working as a freelance journalist and completing work on a master's degree in Iranian studies and
Reza Saberi confirmed Sunday that his daughter's credentials as a
correspondent had been revoked but said she had stayed in Tehran to
pursue her studies and conduct research for a book about Iranian
society, the Reuters news service reported.
Esha Momeni, an Iranian American student at California State University at Northridge who was detained in Iran in October for supporting a campaign for women's rights, still cannot return home.
Momeni was arrested after conducting video interviews with rights
activists for her master's thesis. Authorities accused her of
"propagating against the system." She was released in November after
paying $200,000 bail but was not allowed to leave Iran.
"A new issue has turned up in her case," a spokesman for the Iranian
judiciary said in January.
Iran confirms reporter detention
Wednesday, March 4, 2009
Iran has confirmed that it is holding an Iranian-American journalist, Roxana Saberi, in a Tehran prison.
An Iranian judiciary spokesman said she had been arrested on the orders of the revolutionary court, but he did not know what the charges were.The foreign ministry said on Monday Ms Saberi had been detained for working illegally as a journalist.
Ms Saberi, 31, worked briefly for the BBC three years ago, before her Iranian press credentials were revoked.Ms Saberi has also worked for the American public radio network NPR and the TV network Fox News.
Speaking from his home in North Dakota, her Iranian-born father Reza Saberi said a lawyer would be send to Tehran's Evin prison.
"We have been very anxious and worried because they kept us completely in the dark," Mr Saberi said.
She was reportedly arrested in late January and had been allowed to call home only on 10 February, when she told her father she had been arrested for allegedly buying alcohol.
"We are happy that at least they are acknowledging she is in the prison," Mr Saberi said in comments quoted by AFP.
"We want a fair trial... They are accusing her of nothing," he added.
Ms Saberi has both Iranian and US citizenship, although the Iranian authorities do not recognise dual nationality and are believed to be treating her as one of their own nationals.
NPR reportedly acknowledged that Ms Saberi's press credentials had been revoked but the authorities had continued to allow her to report short news stories.
Iran and the US have not had diplomatic ties since 1979. Their relations are generally strained, with differences particularly sharp over Iran's nuclear programme and the US military involvement in the Middle East.
Iran Says an American�s Reports Were �Illegal�
By Robert Mackey
March 2, 2009
Roxana Saberi with Iran�s former President Mohammad Khatami in an undated photograph released by her family.
On Monday in Tehran, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, Hasan Qashqavi, said that Roxana Saberi, an American freelance journalist who was detained in Iran four weeks ago, had been doing �completely illegal and unauthorized� work.
According to an Associated Press report, Mr. Qashqavi pointed out that Iran had revoked Ms. Saberi�s press credentials in 2006, but he �refused to say whether the 31-year-old freelance journalist, who has reported for National Public Radio and other media, was in prison.�
As Nazila Fathi reported in The New York Times on Sunday, Ms. Saberi�s arrest first came to light on Sunday when her father, Reza Saberi, told Scott Simon of National Public Radio that his daughter had called from �an unknown place� in Iran to tell him that she had been arrested.
By his daughter�s account, Mr. Saberi told N.P.R., she was detained after buying a bottle of wine, which is illegal in Iran. Mr. Saberi added that he thought that was just a pretext for the arrest, since Iranians caught buying wine are usually fined, not imprisoned.
Hooman Majd, an Iranian-American author who recently published �The Ayatollah Begs to Differ: The Paradox of Modern Iran,� told The Lede today in an interview:
Even fines are rare these days, unless it�s a big sting operation and they�re after distributors. Alcohol is not only widely available, but in cities like Tehran, almost in every home above a certain socioeconomic class.
No one, to my knowledge, has in recent years been given anything more than a few hours at the police station and a fine for drinking or buying alcohol. It has to be remembered that alcohol production and consumption is not illegal for the religious minorities � i.e., Jews, Christians and Zoroastrians � so there is a plentiful supply, as well as bootleg liquor flowing across the porous borders with Azerbaijan, Armenia and Turkey.
Roxana Saberi, second from right, in the 1997 Miss America contest.Ms. Saberi, born in New Jersey and raised in North Dakota, is an American citizen. In fact, she nearly became Miss America, reaching the final stages of the beauty pageant in 1997 as Miss North Dakota. Her father, however, was born in Iran, and that seems to matter more to the Iranian authorities than Ms. Saberi�s citizenship or the fact that her mother, Akiko, is originally from Japan.
Mr. Saberi told N.P.R. that Iran issued his daughter an Iranian passport when she moved to Iran six years ago to work as a journalist and to complete a master�s degree in Iranian studies.
Mr. Majd notes that �being both Iranian and American is a double-edged sword. On the one hand it definitely affords one more protection because Iran is mindful of its image, and arresting an American brings attention, but on the other hand, depending on for whom one has written or what one�s activities are, could bring suspicion.� As Mr. Majd says, Ms. Saberi �worked for Fox at some point, and the BBC, which are both considered propaganda tools against Iran.�
Ms. Saberi reported openly from Iran, as the photograph at the top of this blog post, showing her with former President Mohammad Khatami while holding a video camera, suggests. A look at the subjects she covered in some of her reports might might help to explain why she was detained.
As Ms. Fathi reported in The New York Times, Ms. Saberi�s arrest �comes at a time of increasing pressure before presidential elections in June, during which at least two pro-reform candidates will be running against President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.� One of those candidates will be Mr. Khatami, whose reformist presidency preceded the conservative backlash that brought Mr. Ahmadinejad to power.
Behrouz Mehri/Agence France-Presse � Getty Images
Roxana Saberi working in 2004.Ms. Saberi has frequently tackled subjects that skirt the edges of taboo in the more conservative Iran that Mr. Ahmadinejad hopes to continue leading. In 2007 Ms. Saberi produced a radio report for N.P.R. on women being arrested as part of �a new wave of Iran�s nationwide morality crackdown against fashions deemed un-Islamic.� In 2006, she filed a report for the BBC from Tehran on the growing popularity of Sufism, a mystical form of Islam frowned upon by the conservative Shiite authorities. Two weeks ago, as Ms. Fathi reported, the government �destroyed the place of worship of members of a Sufi group called the Gonabadi Dervishes� in Isfahan, a city in central Iran.
Mr. Khatami himself has not been immune to pressure from Iran�s conservative forces. As the British newspaper The Guardian reported last month, an Iranian newspaper that is known to support Mr. Ahmadinejad �warned the country�s reformist former president, Mohammad Khatami, that he risks being assassinated like the late Pakistani political leader, Benazir Bhutto, if he stands in the forthcoming presidential election.� The Guardian�s correspondent in Tehran, Robert Tait, wrote that the newspaper�s warning was �seen as a thinly-veiled threat by hardliners that they will resort to violence to prevent Khatami winning June�s poll.�
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