SPJ 2020 Journalism Conference • Sept. 12-13, 2020



Reporter, freed from iran, to speak

By Billy O'Keefe

By Jacqueline Palochko
Roxana Saberi, the freelance journalist imprisoned in Iran from Jan. 31 to May 11, will be the keynote speaker at the Mark of Excellence Awards Luncheon at noon today.

An Iranian-American journalist born in New Jersey and raised in North Dakota, Saberi was charged with purchasing alcohol, an illegal act in Iran. Charges were changed, however, to reporting without credentials. In April, she was officially charged with espionage and sentenced to eight years in prison.
An Iranian appeals court eventually overturned Saberi’s sentence but forbade her from reporting in Iran for five years.
Chris Vachon, Society of Professional Journalists co-interim executive director, said she asked Saberi on Aug. 14 to be the keynote speaker. When Vachon explained to Saberi that she would be speaking to college students, the 32-year-old journalist agreed.
“The experiences that she went through at such a young age will make her a great speaker,” Vachon said.
Lara Logan, CBS Chief Foreign Affairs Correspondent, had been scheduled as the keynote speaker, but when offered a reporting opportunity in Afghanistan, she canceled her visit to Indianapolis.
Vachon said SPJ closely followed Saberi’s case and tried intervening three times to advocate for her release.
A dual citizen, Saberi lived in Iran for the past six years and freelanced for the BBC, National Public Radio and Fox News. She was in Iran pursuing her master’s degree in Iranian studies.
Saberi is a graduate of Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism and represented North Dakota in the 1997 Miss America pageant.
“We’re thrilled and honored that she agreed to come and speak,” Vachon said.
The luncheon recognizes the work of student journalists and their advisers. The luncheon will be in the Grand IV room at noon. Tickets are required and can be purchased for $45 at the Registration Desk.




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