Media: The Journalists We Cover And Those We Don’t; Middle East


Glenn Greenwald Roxana Saberi’s plight and American media propaganda

An Iranian appeals court this morning announced that it was reducing the sentence and ordering the immediate release of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who was convicted by an Iranian court last month of spying for the U.S. and sentenced to eight years in prison. Saberi’s imprisonment in January became a cause célèbre among American journalists, who — along with the U.S. Government — rallied to demand her release. Within minutes of the announcement, several of them — including ABC News’ Jake Tapper, Time ’s Karen Tumulty, The Atlantic ’s Marc Ambinder — posted celebratory notices of Saberi’s release.

Saberi’s release is good news, as her conviction occurred as part of extremely dubious charges and unreliable judicial procedures in Iran. And, as Ambinder suggested, her release most likely is a positive by-product of the commendable ( though far from perfect) change in tone towards Iran specifically and the Muslim world generally from the Obama administration. But imprisoning journalists — without charges or trials of any kind — was and continues to be a staple of America’s “war on terror,” and that has provoked virtually no objections from America’s journalists who, notably, instead seized on Saberi’s plight in Iran to demonstrate their claimed commitment to defending persecuted journalists.

Beginning in 2001, the U.S. held Al Jazeera cameraman Sami al-Haj for six years in Guantanamo with no trial of any kind, and spent most of that time interrogating him not about Terrorism, but about Al Jazeera. For virtually the entire time, the due-process-less, six-year-long imprisonment of this journalist by the U.S. produced almost no coverage — let alone any outcry — from America’s establishment media, other than some columns by Nicholas Kristof (though, for years, al-Haj’s imprisonment was a major media story in the Muslim world).

As Kristof noted when al-Haj was finally released in 2007: “there was never any real evidence that Sami was anything but a journalist”; “the interrogators quickly gave up on asking him substantive questions” and “instead, they asked him to spy on Al-Jazeera if he was released;” and “American officials, by imprisoning an Al-Jazeera journalist without charges or meaningful evidence, have done far more to damage American interests in the Muslim world than anything Sami could ever have do”

As I reported from Doha, the capital of Qatar and Al Jazeera, I met Sami and was very impressed by his ongoing commitment to human rights for all journalists

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