UPDATE (May 20): Dorothy arrived in B.C. yesterday. Here’s a photo captured by the CBC of her hugging her family as she arrived at the airport. In an interview broadcast by Al Jazeera and reported on by The Guardian, Dorothy talks about harsh conditions in the Syrian jail where she was held for three days — in marked contrast to her detention in Iran.
Dorothy Parvaz, the Al Jazeera journalist who disappeared on April 29, has been freed. She’s in Doha, Qatar, and plans to return home to British Columbia later this week.
Thanks to all of you who Liked the Free Dorothy page on Facebook, contacted your elected leaders and the embassies, and showed your support in numerous other ways.
For those who have been following this story from the beginning, it’s taken some twists.
If there’s one thing I’ve observed from this episode, it’s this: Journalists will move heaven and earth when their colleagues are in danger and when the principles of press freedom we hold dear are at stake.
Within hours of the news of Dorothy’s disappearance, journalists in Seattle sprang into action. Campaigns on Twitter and Facebook launched. AAJA called for Dorothy’s release on May 3. At that time, Syria was believed to be holding Dorothy since her disappearance in Damascus on April 29.
Journalism colleagues in Seattle, Vancouver, Boston, Doha, D.C. and elsewhere met in coffeeshops, newsrooms and cyberspace to talk about Dorothy and what her disappearance meant to them. Later, we learned that Syria deported Dorothy to Iran on May 1. The Free Dorothy campaign had to switch gears and focus on Iran.
And today, 19 days since she disappeared, Dorothy is back in contact with her family and free! We look forward to seeing her again in Seattle some day soon and hearing her story.
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One of our own, Dorothy Parvaz, a former Seattle Post-Intelligencer writer and AAJA Seattle member who joined Al Jazeera in 2010, is missing in Syria.
Some suspect she has been detained by Syrian authorities. This could be a fast-changing situation, so please tweet updates using hashtag #FreeDorothy.
Al Jazeera has demanded her return safely. She left Qatar on Friday for Syria to help cover events taking place there. Al Jazeera reports there has been no contact with the 39-year-old since she disembarked from a Qatar Airways flight in Damascus.
An Al Jazeera spokesman said: â€œWe are concerned for Dorothyâ€™s safety and wellbeing. We are requesting full cooperation from the Syrian authorities to determine how she was processed at the airport and what her current location is. We want her returned to us immediately.â€
Some of you know Dorothy well, while others may only have read her byline. I pray she is safe and will come back to her colleagues as soon as possible.
I’m in touch with the Committee to Protect Journalists and monitoring this to see how AAJA Seattle might offer constructive support. We will continue to post updates as we receive more information.
On Twitter, some AAJA members already have begun to call on the Syrian government to release Dorothy. Hashtag is #FreeDorothy.
Former colleague Larry Johnson advises:
“She’s been missing since Friday. Everyone should contact the Syrian embassy in Washington, D.C. Calls are best, emails help. We need to do this now!” he wrote to P-I Help Google group.
Former NJC scholarship recipient Thanh Tan, a multimedia reporter for The Texas Tribune, delivered the keynote speech to this yearâ€™s scholarship recipients. If you want to be inspired, watch her outstanding speech:
Our chapter and the Seattle Association of Black Journalists presented a leadership plaque to Seattle Times Publisher Frank Blethen for his consistent support of diversity nationally and locally. And we cut a red velvet cake to mark the 25th anniversary of the NJC scholarship, which has helped more than 100 aspiring journalists of color from Washington state with college expenses.
The Seattle chapter had an impressive showing at the AAJA National Convention in Detroit. Three of our members â€“ Caroline Li, Sarah Wallace, and Sunny Wu â€“ were awarded Ford Foundation fellowships to attend the conference. The chapter also sponsored University of Washington student Peter Sessum with a Founders scholarship. Whitworth University graduate Kyle Kim joined the team at this yearâ€™s VOICES convention newsroom project, which was led by the able Marian Liu (now community manager at Storify.com). Athima Chansanchai represented the Seattle chapter on the convention programming committee co-chair and on the Governing Board as National Secretary.
President: Sona Patel, social media producer, seattletimes.com (term expires in 2013)
VP-Programs: Lauren Rabaino, associate web producer, seattletimes.com (term expires in 2013)
VP-Events: Caroline Li, web entrepreneur (term expires in 2012)
Treasurer: Mai Hoang, business reporter, The Yakima Herald-Republic (term expires in 2012)
Secretary: Samantha Pak, reporter, The Redmond Reporter (term expires in 2013)
National Board Representative: Sanjay Bhatt, business reporter, The Seattle Times (term expires in 2013)
The new board already has stepped up to the plate, and itâ€™s not even Jan. 1! Sona Patel helped organize Holiday Scoop 2011, an unaffiliated event, with AAJA members Sharon Chan and Candace Heckman and Online News Association member Tiffany Campbell. The event raised $2,000 for the Northwest Journalists of Color Scholarship!
You may have noticed that AAJA Seattleâ€™s website has a new look and feel. The site has served mainly as a bulletin board for chapter news and job listings as well as an archive of photos, videos and stories about past chapter events. Thanks to incoming chapter VP Lauren Rabaino, as well as AAJA members Sarah Wallace, Furhana Afrid and Sunny Wu, the site now is integrated with our @aajaseattle Twitter account and designed to offer a better user experience and engagement. If youâ€™d like to contribute stories to the site, please contact Lauren, whose Twitter handle is @laurenrabaino.
As we close out 2011, you still have a few days to make a tax-deductible donation to AAJA! You can make an online donation to AAJA Nationalâ€™s Power of One campaign or its scholarships. The Seattle chapter also welcomes donations by check to its P.O. Box. The chapter will have a PayPal option in 2012.
Donâ€™t forget to renew your AAJA membership! I encourage you to renew at the Gold or Platinum level, each of which include perks and special mention on the chapter and national websites. Platinum level membership includes your registration fee for UNITY 2012 in Las Vegas!
For the past four years, I have been honored to serve the chapter during a period of turbulence for our employers and our occupation. Working together, we finished the campaign to establish a $100,000 endowment for the NJC scholarships, grew membership despite the closure of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, and increased our reach through workshops, partnerships, field trips and digital media.
We are blessed in Seattle with a cadre of leaders who have an ethic of giving and paying it forward. I’d like to thank several people who supported me in ways large and small during my term: my fellow board members Nicole Tsong, Mai Hoang, Athima Chansanchai, Venice Buhain, Caroline Li, Owen Lei; AAJA Executive Director Kathy Chow; Karen Johnson of Hacks & Hackers; former AAJA chapter officers Sharon Chan and Lori Matsukawa; and the leadership of The Seattle Times, especially Publisher Frank Blethen, Executive Editor David Boardman and former Executive Editor Mike Fancher.
Being a journalist today is more challenging and entrepreneurial than ever before. Journalists must sharpen their skills, cultivate their network and have a community to stand behind them. You and your fellow members are AAJA. Together, we are charting a new course for journalism in the 21st century.
Kristen Young, a friend of Dorothy and former colleague at The Seattle Post-Intelligencer, is spearheading press and public diplomacy efforts in the US to free Dorothy. She wrote the press release below.
By Kristen Young
Dorothy Parvaz â€“ a citizen of the U.S., Canada and Iran and a former editorial writer for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer â€“ has been detained since Friday, April 29, when she boarded a plane from Doha, Qatar, to Damascus, Syria, on a reporting assignment for her current employer, Al Jazeera English.
She hasn’t been heard from since.
The Syrian government said Dorothy was sent to Iran on May 1 under the control of the Iranian authorities, but weâ€™ve had no word from Iran as to whether that is true. We are unsure of who has her. We continue to hope she is being treated with dignity and respect, especially considering that she is a citizen of Iran.Â Most of all, her family and loved ones need to know she is safe.Â We believe that Syria maliciously sent Dorothy to Iran and, in so doing, violated international law.
Hundreds of articles, radio and TV segments, and blog posts have focused attention on her detainment. The U.S. State Department is working on freeing Dorothy, but weâ€™d like for her case to remain a focus of diplomatic engagement by the U.S., Canadian and Iranian governments. Â On May 2 â€“ the day after Syrian authorities claimed Parvaz was sent to Iran — the Iranian foreign ministerÂ said at a news conference that Iran wanted the SyriansÂ to look into theÂ matter. Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi also indicated that he did not know about Syria detaining Parvaz, or about Syria deporting her.
“I hope that it is not true, but if that is the case, then we demand the government of Syria to look into this,” Salehi said in response to a questionÂ on what Iran would undertake to secure Parvaz’s release. We hope that Salehi now focuses his attention on Syriaâ€™s claims that Parvaz was sent to Tehran.
Supporters worldwide have visited and “liked” theÂ Free Dorothy Parvaz Facebook page, which already has more than 12,000 members. Thousands of Twitter messages have demanded her freedom atÂ #FreeDorothy.
Could you encourage other news sources and relevant institutions to do the same? Can you ask your political representatives to join U.S. Senators Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell and U.S. Representatives Jay Inslee, Jim McDermott and Rick LarsenÂ (D-WA)Â in supporting the effort to free Dorothy?Â Please scroll to the bottom of this message to see relevant embassy and governmental contact information for supporters in the U.S., Canada and the U.K.
Your participation is crucial.Â Her family and loved ones cannot rest until she is known to be safe â€“ and home.
Dorothy is aÂ global citizen.Â She grew up in Iran, the United Arab Emirates and Canada. Â SheÂ studied at theÂ University of British Columbia and earned her master’s degree in journalism from the University of Arizona before joining the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Â She was awarded fellowships at HarvardÂ and Cambridge before being hired by Al Jazeera English online.
DorothyÂ has dedicated her life to telling stories. SheÂ views journalism as a force for good.
Please write to me atÂ firstname.lastname@example.orgÂ or call me atÂ 206-795-7771Â if you have any questions. Thank you for any action that you contemplate taking. Please keep her in your thoughts.
On Friday, May 6, it will be one week since the Syrian government detained former Seattle Post-Intelligencer reporter and AAJA Seattle member Dorothy Parvaz.
Download your “Free Dorothy” Facebook profile pic here, swap it out with your personal profile pic, and show solidarity on Friday with her family and friends. If you feel so moved, swap it out with your Twitter pic too!
Ever since Al Jazeera first reported that 39-year-old Parvaz was missing after being sent to cover news there, the number of people calling for her release has multiplied day by day. Because she worked at both The Seattle Times and The Seattle Post-Intelligencer and hails from Vancouver, naturally the journalists in the Pacific Northwest began flooding the Syrian embassy’s inbox earlier in the week. The Seattle media have been following her story closely.
We don’t know how long it’s going to take to bring Dorothy back home, but her supporters are determined to keep up the pressure on our Congressional representatives, the U.S. State Department and the Syrian government. This is not an issue that will be allowed to fade into the background.
If you’d like to join our campaign, send an email to email@example.com. Several groups are coalescing around this campaign and will be developing strategies to keep Dorothy’s case in the spotlight.