Sunday, April 26, 2009

American-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi on hunger strike for past five days

Reporters Without Borders: Roxana Saberi, the young American-Iranian journalist who was sentenced to eight years in prison on a spying charge in Tehran on 18 April, has been on hunger strike for the past five days, her father has told Reporters Without Borders. He said she called him today from prison to tell him this. She is “determined and ready to go all the way,” Reza Saberi said, adding that he was “very worried.”

“We voice our complete solidarity with Roxana Saberi, who was unjustly arrested and convicted in a trial lacking any transparency,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Her decision to go on hunger strike, a last-ditch form of protest, is an act of rebellion against a fundamental injustice.”

The press freedom organisation added : “Saberi must know that she is not alone. Reporters Without Borders, the Committee to Protect Journalists and 35 other press freedom organisations, as well as Iranian human rights activists and journalists, are all supporting her and demanding her release. We will not abandon her.”

Saberi’s lawyer was not allowed to speak at her trial, held behind closed doors on 13 April, five days before the verdict was issued. He has filed an appeal against her conviction. She will be 32 tomorrow.

Saberi was arrested at the start of February although her arrest was not revealed until the start of the following month. The daughter of an Iranian father who lives in the United States and who acquired US citizenship, Saberi moved to Iran six years ago and worked for various international news media including the BBC, Fox News and the US public radio network NPR.

She was initially accused of working illegally as a journalist but was finally tried for “spying” for the United States, a charge that the Iranian authorities often use to silence outspoken journalists. Several American-Iranian journalists have been arrested in Iran in recent years but Saberi is the first one to be tried and given a jail sentence.

Seven journalists are currently imprisoned in Iran, which was ranked 166th out of 173 countries in the latest Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is on the Reporters Without Borders list of “Predators of Press Freedom.”

Read 24 April’s press release "International support for Roxana Saberi ahead for her birthday"

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