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Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Remember Roxana Saberi?

Of course you do. She was the Iranian-American journalist who was tried, convicted, briefly imprisoned, and then released from Iranian prison after a huge international outcry, despite not being exactly "innocent." It's a safe bet that any politically aware person in the West knows her name, or at least knew it a few weeks ago when it was in the news every day.

As usual, though, the brouhaha over Saberi was one part hypocrisy and one part "enemy-bashing." Because, as Jeremy Scahill reminds us, one of the biggest offenders of imprisoning journalists without trial, and even torturing them, has been the good old U-S-of-A. Al Jazeera journalist Sami al Hajj was imprisoned in Guantanamo for 6 1/2 years before being released, never having been charged with anything, much less given a trial or convicted. Reuters photographer Ibrahim Jassam has been a US prisoner in Iraq since last September, again without charges or trial or conviction, despite an Iraqi court’s order last year that he be freed. And those are far from the only ones.

The impression in the West, and it's hardly a trustworthy one, is that Saberi had a kangaroo trial. Perhaps she did. But at least she had a trial, a conviction, a defined sentence, a chance for an appeal, and now she's free after the appeal shortened and suspended her sentence. Which is one heck of a lot better than what happened to Sami al Hajj or what is happening right now to Ibrahim Jassam. Al Hajj's name actually appeared in the New York Times a few times, although most of them were in a single place, op-ed columns by Nicholas Kristof. Ibrahim Jassam's name has not appeared there even once. Saberi? 1390 hits in a search of the Times.

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