Monday, April 26, 2010

In the U. S. we don’t need government press credentials to write or report

Naomi’s Notes

Caption: Roxana Saberi and Naomi Yaeger-Bischoff at a book signing for her book, Between Two Worlds, during the Midwest Journalism Conference in Bloomington, Minn.

This April I attended the Midwest Journalism Conference in Bloomington, MN.

The highlight was meeting journalist Roxana Saberi. Saberi was released from an Iranian prison last May after a five-month imprisonment on charges of spying. She is originally from Fargo, ND. Since I am from North Dakota I feel a kinship to her and felt just terrible last year when the Iranian government detained her.

She says she was mentally, but not physically, tortured while in prison. At one point she confessed to the charges in hopes that she would be released before becoming an elderly woman or dying. She later recanted the charges.

As a child she had visited Japan, her mother’s home country, but she had never visited her dad’s home country of Iran. She has dual Iranian and American citizenship. In 2003, she moved to Iran as an international journalist. Her work has aired on Fox News, PBS, and NPR, as well as many international markets.

She told of a fellow woman journalist weeping at a goodbye party for outgoing President Mohammad Khatami, who was replaced by the current president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.
Saberi soon learned why her colleague was so sad. Under Ahmadinejad’s administration Saberi lost her press credentials, as did many other journalists. That didn’t stop Saberi from doing research to write a book. She speculates that the Iranian government was irritated by the idea of her writing a book without the proper approval of their government, and that is why they imprisoned her.

As I listened to her I was so glad that I live in the United States. I don’t know that I would have the strength to endure the mental torture she was put through. I couldn’t imagine living in a country where I would have to have press credentials from the government to be a working journalist.

Yaeger-Bischoff is the editor/general manager of The Hillsider.