Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Film director writes public love letter about fiancee, jailed journo Roxana Saberi

Iran's prize-winning filmmaker, Bahman Ghobadi, who has won international recognition after awards in Berlin and Cannes, today has released a heart-wrenching letter which gives the important backstory on the imprisoned Iranian-American journalist, Roxana Saberi (pictured above with former leader of Iran.)

Iran sentenced journalist Roxana Saberi to eight years in prison on charges of espionage after a brief closed door trial. She had been living in Iran and working as a reporter and researcher, although the government claimed her press credentials are now invalid. Her harsh sentence has generated a global outcry. President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have called for her release. Amnesty International is demanding that the flaws of the original trial be addressed and for Roxana to be released immediately on bail. Speculation about the nefarious motives for her arrest are rife.

The Iranian government knows that all eyes are on them and there is mounting pressure for a fair trial. Both President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the Head of the Judiciary Shahroudi have urged Tehran's chief prosecutor to investigate the case. Shahroudi said, "a fair examination of the case, especially at the appeal stage, is the defendant's right." This case comes at a critical time; President Obama has offered to start a dialogue with Iran and break a 30-year diplomatic deadlock.

The Iranian government has not released any evidence against Roxana and reports indicate she was pressured into making statements that were used against her in the legal proceedings. It seems she has become a pawn in the political maneuvering that is unfolding in Iran's relations with the United States.

Her harsh prison sentence is yet another example of the increasingly severe crackdown on those exercising their rights to peaceful freedom of expression and association in Iran. The government of Iran has recently imprisoned and persecuted numerous bloggers, journalists, labor activists, students and members of religious minorities.

Here is the full text of the love letter, as cited in the London Independent.

What the letter said (AFP translation)

"If I kept quiet until now, it was for her sake. If today I speak, it is for her sake. She is my friend, my fiancée, and my companion, an intelligent and talented young woman I have always admired.

It was the 31st of January. The day of my birthday. That morning, she called to say she would pick me up so we would go out together. She never came. I called her mobile but it was off and for two to three days, I had no idea what had happened to her. I went to her apartment and since we had each other's keys, I went in, but she wasn't there. Two days later, she called and said: "Forgive me my dear, I had to go to Zahedan." I got angry: why hadn't she said anything to me? I told her I didn't believe her and again she said: 'Forgive me my dear, I had to go.' And the line was cut. I waited for her to call back. But she didn't.

I left for Zahedan. I looked for her in every hotel, but nobody had ever heard her name. For 10 days, thousands of wild thoughts came to mind, until I learnt through her father that she had been arrested. I thought it was a joke. I thought it was a misunderstanding, that she would be released after two or three days. But days went by and I had no news. I started to worry and knocked on every door for help, until I understood what had happened.

It is with tears in my eyes that I say she is innocent and guiltless. It is me, who has known her for years, and shared every moment with her, who declares it. She was always busy reading and doing her research. Nothing else. During all these years I've known her, she wouldn't go anywhere without letting me know... To her friends, her family, everyone that surrounded her, she had given no signs of unreasonable behaviour.

How come someone who would spend days without going out of her apartment, except to see me; someone who, like a Japanese lady, would carefully spend her money, and had sometimes trouble making a living; someone who was looking for a sponsor to get in contact with a local publisher so her book would be printed here [in Iran] now be charged with a spying accusation?! We all know – no, we have all seen in movies – that spies are malicious and sneaky, that they peep around for information, and that they are very well paid. And now my heart is full of sorrow. Because it is me who incited her to stay here. And now I can't do anything for her. Roxana wanted to leave Iran. I kept her from it.

At the beginning of our relationship, she wanted to go back to the United States. She would have liked us to go together. But I insisted for her to stay until my new film was over... And now I am devastated, for it is because of me she has been subject to these events. These past years, I have been subject to a serious depression. Why? Because my movie had been banned, and released on the black market. My next movie was not given an authorisation, and I was forced to stay at home. If I've been able to stand it until today, it is thanks to the help that she provided me with.

... She is the one who took care of me while I was depressed. Then I convinced her to stay, I wanted her to write the book she had started in her head... She was absorbed by her book, to the point that she could stay and bear it all, until my film would be finished, and we would leave together.

Roxana's book was a praise to Iran. The manuscripts exist, and it will certainly be published one day, and all will see it. But why have they said nothing? All those who have talked, worked and sat with her, and who know how guiltless she is.

I am writing this letter for I am worried about her. I am worried about her health. I heard she was depressed and cried all the time. She is very sensitive. To the point she refuses to touch her food. My letter is a desperate call to all statesmen, and to all those who can do something to help.

From the other side of the ocean, the Americans have protested against her imprisonment, because she is an American citizen. But I say no, she is Iranian, and she loves Iran. I beg you, let her go! I beg you not to throw her in the midst of your political games! She is too weak and too pure to take part in your games.

Let me be present at her trial, to sit next to her wise father and gentle mother and testify she is without guilt or reproach. I am optimistic about her release and I hope the verdict will be cancelled in the next stage of the trial. My Iranian girl with Japanese eyes and an American ID, is in jail. Shame on me! Shame on us!"

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Condi mutates into sports reporter?

If the snarky comments are any indication, the former secretary of state Condi Rice has raised some hackles with her latest effort for Tina Brown's Daily Beast, particularly from leftists who have contempt for Meghan McCain's ramblings and little patience for Republicans in general. But actually, the odd golf article was rather above par, especially considering what a newcomer Rice is to the game. (Last summer she admitted to the WashPo how gripped she is by the National and with Tigerrrrr. Freelance hackdom is a pretty tight playing field, and one wonders if RIce has resorted to gratis citizen journalism.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Booty call? Not really

Hacks hoping to speak with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about a NATO gathering were accidentally directed by the White House to call a phone-sex line. What's the real message here? Go F*ck yourselves?
Journalists who sought on "on-the-record briefing call with Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and National Security Advisor Jim Jones to discuss the NATO summit" missed out, apparently. Fox news gloated about the contrast between "Shrillary" and the breathy voice recording that answered the pay-per-dial, and the White House just hrrumphed .

How to Feed the RSS

It's called real simple syndication, and this is a real simple explanation for non-techie journos.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Cabinet photo undergoes double digital sex change. Not unorthodox, ultra-Orthodox

Now you see em; now you don't!
Altered reality has stopped coming as a surprise on the streets of Israel. It's a given in this city of high sects' appeal. Can you find the distaff ministers in the group shot of Bibi Netanyahu's new administration? Aha

Two ultra-Orthodox Jewish newspapers have touched up an official photo of the new Israeli cabinet, removing two female ministers from the "bloated committee", in order to adhere to their communities' devout behavioural standards.

Limor Livnat and Sofa Landver were snapped with the rest of the 30-member cabinet for their inaugural photo.

But Yated Neeman newspaper digitally changed the picture by replacing them with two men. The Shaa Tova newspaper blacked out the females.

Publishing pictures of women is viewed by many ultra-orthodox Jews as a violation of female modesty.

Other Israeli papers jokingly reprinted the altered images next to the original photos, with one headlining it "Find the lady".

The ultra-Orthodox community keeps apart from mainstream society through its arcane religious practices and prescribed clothing. Black hats, coats and sidelocks are required for the men and long skirts, snoods and sleeves for the women.

Restrictions include using only "Kosher" telephones, only carrying items outside the home on the Sabbath if walking under Rabbinically approved wires called eruv, and, of course, not accessing websites with content deemed inappropriate.
(crossposted by Izzy Bee)

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Twittering to replace Guardian hardcopy? tweet

• Newspaper to be available only on messaging service
• Experts say any story can be told in 140 characters

The Guardian, Wednesday 1 April 2009

Printing presses will fall silent in brave new Twitter-based future.
by Rio Palof

Twitter switch for Guardian, after 188 years of ink

Consolidating its position at the cutting edge of new media technology, the Guardian today announces that it will become the first newspaper in the world to be published exclusively via Twitter, the sensationally popular social networking service that has transformed online communication.

The move, described as "epochal" by media commentators, will see all Guardian content tailored to fit the format of Twitter's brief text messages, known as "tweets", which are limited to 140 characters each. Boosted by the involvement of celebrity "twitterers", such as Madonna, Britney Spears and Stephen Fry, Twitter's profile has surged in recent months, attracting more than 5m users who send, read and reply to tweets via the web or their mobile phones.

As a Twitter-only publication, the Guardian will be able to harness the unprecedented newsgathering power of the service, demonstrated recently when a passenger on a plane that crashed outside Denver was able to send real-time updates on the story as it developed, as did those witnessing an emergency landing on New York's Hudson River. It has also radically democratised news publishing, enabling anyone with an internet connection to tell the world when they are feeling sad, or thinking about having a cup of tea.

"[Celebrated Guardian editor] CP Scott would have warmly endorsed this - his well-known observation 'Comment is free but facts are sacred' is only 36 characters long," a spokesman said in a tweet that was itself only 135 characters long.

A mammoth project is also under way to rewrite the whole of the newspaper's archive, stretching back to 1821, in the form of tweets. Major stories already completed include "1832 Reform Act gives voting rights to one in five adult males yay!!!"; "OMG Hitler invades Poland, allies declare war see for more"; and "JFK assassin8d @ Dallas, def. heard second gunshot from grassy knoll WTF?"

Sceptics have expressed concerns that 140 characters may be insufficient to capture the full breadth of meaningful human activity, but social media experts say the spread of Twitter encourages brevity, and that it ought to be possible to convey the gist of any message in a tweet.

For example, Martin Luther King's legendary 1963 speech on the steps of the Lincoln memorial appears in the Guardian's Twitterised archive as "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by", eliminating the waffle and bluster of the original.

At a time of unprecedented challenge for all print media, many publications have rushed to embrace social networking technologies. Most now offer Twitter feeds of major breaking news headlines, while the Daily Mail recently pioneered an iPhone application providing users with a one-click facility for reporting suspicious behaviour by migrants or gays. "In the new media environment, readers want short and punchy coverage, while the interactive possibilities of Twitter promise to transform th," the online media guru Jeff Jarvis said in a tweet yesterday, before reaching his 140-character limit, which includes spaces. According to subsequent reports, he is thinking about going to the theatre tonight, but it is raining :(.

A unique collaboration between The Guardian and Twitter will also see the launch of Gutter, an experimental service designed to filter noteworthy liberal opinion from the cacophony of Twitter updates. Gutter members will be able to use the service to comment on liberal blogs around the web via a new tool, specially developed with the blogging platform WordPress, entitled GutterPress.

Currently, 17.8% of all Twitter traffic in the United Kingdom consists of status updates from Stephen Fry, whose reliably jolly tone, whether trapped in a lift or eating a scrumptious tart, has won him thousands of fans. A further 11% is made up of his 363,000 followers replying "@stephenfry LOL!", "@stephenfry EXACTLY the same thing happened to me", and "@stephenfry Meanwhile, I am making myself an omelette! Delicious!"

According to unconfirmed rumours, Jim Buckmaster, the chief executive of Craigslist, will next month announce plans for a new system of telepathy-based social networking that is expected to render Twitter obsolete within weeks.

Er, check out the date... april foolery (for now)