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SPJ demands release of American journalist held in Iran
For Immediate Release
Dave Aeikens, SPJ President, (320) 255-8744,
Scott Leadingham, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 211,
INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is once again calling on the Iranian government to release American journalist Roxana Saberi, who was arrested in January. Her lawyer confirmed yesterday that she had been formally charged with espionage.
Though initially arrested for unspecified reasons, reports surfaced that she’d been detained for either illegal alcohol purchase or reporting without a license. The latest charge, brought more than two months after her arrest, claims the freelance journalist was passing classified information to the U.S. government.
“It’s obvious that the charges against Roxana are false and a complete sham,” said SPJ President Dave Aeikens, who spoke with her father in early March. “This has gone on long enough. Roxana Saberi needs to be released and sent home to her family immediately.”
Like many concerned organizations, SPJ responded to the initial news of her arrest, which wasn’t known until late February, by advocating for her release. Read SPJ’s first statement here. Read a March statement from multiple news outlets calling for her release here.
The U.S. State Department intervened, asking Swiss diplomats to press the Iranian government for more information. Switzerland represents American interests in Tehran since the U.S. cut off diplomatic relations with Iran in 1979. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton yesterday called for Saberi’s quick release.
“The rest of the world is watching to see how Iran values press freedoms,” Aeikens said. “If it wants to be taken seriously on the world stage, it needs to release Roxana and stop stifling information.”
Born in New Jersey and raised in North Dakota, Saberi has been in Iran for six years, working as a freelance journalist and pursuing a master’s degree in Iranian Studies. She has reported for numerous outlets, including NPR, the BBC and Fox News. She is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and a former Miss America contestant.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.