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SPJ calls on Iran to release journalist, says eight-year sentence is “outrageous”


For Immediate Release

Dave Aeikens, SPJ President, (320) 249-3545,
Scott Leadingham, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 211,

GREENCASTLE, IND. – The Society of Professional Journalists, currently gathered at DePauw University to celebrate its 100th anniversary, is outraged over the eight-year prison sentence of American journalist Roxana Saberi. Arrested in Iran in late January, Saberi was convicted of espionage this week.

“This entire situation is outrageous,” said SPJ President Dave Aeikens when news of her sentence broke this morning. “The only thing the Iranian government proved is that its judicial system is flawed and its leaders are afraid of a free press.”

During an SPJ centennial event Friday evening – before knowing Saberi’s sentence – Aeikens reiterated the importance of fighting for a free press all around the world. “SPJ will not stop our important work, not while an American journalist sits in an Iranian jail,” he said during an address.

Along with many concerned journalism organizations, SPJ has advocated for Saberi’s release since news of her arrest came to light in February. Read SPJ’s past statements here and here.

Originally the freelance journalist was arrested for buying alcohol, which is illegal in Iran, but the charges were later changed to reporting without credentials. The espionage charge did not come until two weeks ago.

“The Iranian government is obviously making up everything as it goes. But no one is buying the deceit,” said Aeikens. “Unfortunately, Roxana got caught up in the government’s paranoia toward reporting and 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 such outlets as NPR, the BBC and Fox News. She is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi – and headquartered in Indianapolis – 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.


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