Reporters Without Borders USA members to go on a hunger strike in New York City on May 3

Several members of Reporters Without Borders USA, from the NY and DC offices, will go on a hunger strike in New York City on Sunday, May 3, World Press Freedom Day in support of imprisoned Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi. They will also call for the release of American reporters Laura Ling and Euna Lee, held in North Korea.

Roxana Saberi has been sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on a trumped-up charge of spying for the United States. She’s been on hunger strike since April 21. Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been charged of entering North Korea illegally, spying and “hostile activities,” but in reality they were just trying to report the fate of North Korean refugees at the border.

“Roxana has been considerably weakened by her hunger strike and, like her family, we are very concerned for her health,” Reporters Without Borders said. “We are therefore symbolically taking over her hunger strike in a gesture of solidarity, so that she does not have to continue it herself.”

The hunger strike was initiated by Reporters Without Borders International in Paris on April 28th. Reporters Without Borders sections in Belgium, Canada and Spain are joining the protest in the coming days.

The members of Reporters Without Borders USA will be stationed from 11 am to 6 pm in the park below Tudor City, in front of the UN headquarters (on 42nd Street and 1st Avenue) which hosts the Iranian and North Korean representations to the United Nations. The rally itself will be starting at noon. Among the speakers: representatives with the Committee to Protect Journalists and the International Women’s Media Foundation. Human Rights supporters, Roxana’s, Laura and Euna’s friends will also be invited to say a few words.

“We appeal to all those who care about the defence of human rights and freedom worldwide to join us in New York City, and to sign the petition and the book for messages of support for Roxana, Laura and Euna,” Reporters Without Borders added. “Roxana Saberi needs to know she is not alone, and that she can now stop her hunger strike. We will not abandon her. Laura and Euna need to know that they have not been forgotten, that people abroad are working for their release. We deplore the way the authorities are treating these two women as criminals when in fact they were just doing their job as journalists,”

Saberi’s father, Reza Saberi, confirmed on April 26 that she was on hunger strike. After visiting her in Tehran’s Evin prison, he said she appeared “much weaker” but was “determined and ready to go all the way.” Since then, the Iranian authorities have been applying a great deal of pressure on Roxana’s parents to get them to deny that their daughter is on hunger strike.

The detention of Saberi, Lee and Ling on arbitrary charges demonstrates more than ever the importance of World Press Freedom Day, which we will be celebrating on 3 May. We urge the Iranian and North Korean authorities to free these three women without delay. Saberi, Lee and Ling are professional journalists who are neither spies nor criminals. Through them, press freedom and the right to report the news freely are being taken hostage by Iran and North Korea.

Seven journalists and two bloggers are currently imprisoned in Iran, which was ranked 166th out of 173 countries in the 2008 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. North Korean was ranked 172nd, second to the bottom.

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