Sunday, April 19, 2009

Roxana Saberi, American-Iranian Journalist, Sentenced to Eight Years for 'Spying'

Update (May 11, 2009)
Roxana Saberi is an American journalist. Her father was born in Iran, her mother is Japanese, and she grew up in Fargo, North Dakota. She's in Iran, where she was arrested for buying wine and convicted of being a spy. She's been sentenced to eight years in prison under Iran's own version of Sharia law.

"...'This is a shocking miscarriage of justice,' said US Senator Byron Dorgan, who represents the state of North Dakota where Saberi's family lives...." (ABC)

With due respect to the North Dakota Senator's statement, I disagree. To me, the word "shocking" means primarily to be "surprise greatly." (Princeton WordNet)

I am not in the least surprised that this American reporter was sentenced to eight years in prison for being a spy. It's the sort of thing I expect the Ayatollahs of Iran and their ministers to do.

I'll grant that Senator Dorgan's remark is accurate, though, if another meaning of "shocking" was intended: to "strike with disgust or revulsion." (Princeton WordNet)

Reaching Out to Iran and a Reality Check

The BBC gave a wonderfully succinct description of how the current American administration took word of Roxana Saberi's sentence:

"...President Barack Obama 'is deeply disappointed at this news,' his spokesman Robert Gibbs said.

"Correspondents say the case will have serious implications for US-Iranian relations at a time when Mr Obama has reached out to the Tehran.

"US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier expressed her disappointment at the sentence.

"She said the US would vigorously raise its concerns about the case with Tehran...." (BBC)

More of what Secretary of State Clinton said, from CNN:

" U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said she was "deeply disappointed" by the news. "We are working closely with the Swiss Protecting Presence to obtain details about the court's decision, and to ensure her well-being," Clinton said in a statement.

"The United States will 'continue to vigorously raise our concerns to the Iranian government,' Clinton said. 'Ms. Saberi was born and raised in the United States, yet chose to travel to the Islamic Republic of Iran due to her desire to learn more about her cultural heritage. Our thoughts are with her parents and family during this difficult time.'..."

I'm relieved to hear a high administration official say that America will 'vigorously raise our concerns' over this matter. I also hope that the current administration realizes that, while 'reaching out' is a very nice idea, the leadership in some countries quite simply isn't nice: and no amount of friendliness and good will is likely to change that unpleasant fact.

Roxana Saberi's Big Mistake: Not Acting Like AMPAS

A delegation of AMPAS (American Motion Picture Arts and Sciences) got a tour of Iran recently. Press TV ("the first Iranian international news network, broadcasting in English on a round-the-clock basis.) posted an article about one of the delegate's reaction to the Iran they saw.

"President of the American Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, Sid Ganis says Iran is very different from what the US mainstream portrays...."

"...'Iranians are very sophisticated, educated and culturally literate people and they have access to far more western media and technology than any of us had realized.' He said.

" 'We traveled freely around Tehran, Shiraz and Isfahan and we didn't see any signs of political demonstrations or speech directed against Americans.'..."

(from Press TV, used w/o permission)
"Sid Ganis at Persepolis, Shiraz, Iran"

Maybe that's how Roxana Saberi should have acted: smiled a lot, said very nice things about Iranians, and not asked too many questions.
AMPAS, Smiles, and Saying Nice Things
I think it's wonderful that Hollywood bigwigs feel like taking time out of their busy schedules to travel abroad in the interests of creative exchange and education. And, it looks like they had a fine time on their trip to Iran.

I hope they had opportunities to compare notes with Iranian movie-makers. Hollywood could use some new ideas, in my opinion - but that's an entirely different topic.

And, I'm glad that they didn't follow the lead of Louisiana's Representative John "Towelheads" Cooksey. That was a boorish and ignorant remark to make in America. In Iran, it would be boorish, ignorant, and probably not a little dangerous.

Even "sophisticated, educated and culturally literate"people might be understandably miffed - and Iran doesn't have the reputation for protecting free speech, no matter how daft, that America does.

As it was, the AMPAS delegation met nice Iranians; had a great time, judging from that photo of Sid Ganis at Persepolis; and said nice things about Iran.
Roxana Saberi and Being a Reporter
We don't know anything about Roxana Saberi's trial, but she must have done something to make Iran's leaders peeved with her.

In a way, it really is her fault that she's looking at an eight year stretch in an Iranian prison - assuming she lives that long. She should have smiled a lot, not asked too many questions, and said nice things: like AMPAS.

Iranian-American Relations and Somebody from Fargo, North Dakota

In a way, the foreign policy of America must not be determined by concerns of - or for - one person.

On the other hand, I think the treatment of Roxana Saberi is a strong indication that Iran's leaders are not even close to being on the same page as America when it comes to basic ideas like freedom of expression.

I hope that Roxana Saberi survives her encounter with "her cultural heritage".

I also hope that the current American administration realizes that all the friendliness in the world will not make all countries as safe as America for people who ask questions.

Related posts: In the news: Background: Related posts, on censorship, propaganda, and freedom of speech.

No comments:

Unique, innovative candles

Visit us online:
Spiral Light CandleFind a Retailer
Spiral Light Candle Store


Note! Although I believe that these websites and blogs are useful resources for understanding the War on Terror, I do not necessarily agree with their opinions. 1 1 Given a recent misunderstanding of the phrase "useful resources," a clarification: I do not limit my reading to resources which support my views, or even to those which appear to be accurate. Reading opinions contrary to what I believed has been very useful at times: sometimes verifying my previous assumptions, sometimes encouraging me to change them.

Even resources which, in my opinion, are simply inaccurate are sometimes useful: these can give valuable insights into why some people or groups believe what they do.

In short, It is my opinion that some of the resources in this blogroll are neither accurate, nor unbiased. I do, however, believe that they are useful in understanding the War on Terror, the many versions of Islam, terrorism, and related topics.