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Hikers detained by Iran say they're journos

The Chron reports tonight that Shane Bauer, Joshua Fattal and Sarah Shourd — the three UC Berkeley grads who disappeared while hiking near the Iranian border — planned to study Mideast culture and do freelance journalism, according to their friends.

BayNewser reports that Bauer and Shourd both have written for Sandy Close’s New America Media. Bauer has also had op-eds in the Chron.

Sandy Close, the executive director of Pacific News Service, the parent company of New America Media, told The New York Times that Bauer left for the Middle East in the fall of 2008 and had since contributed a dozen stories to the service. He was based in Damascus, she said, and last contacted the service on July 27, saying he planned to spend a week in Kurdistan and file a article about the Kurdish elections.

“This is an extremely gifted artist,” Close told the Times. “He was a great value to us, and we are anxiously awaiting word of his status and hope very much that he is allowed to return.”

Iranian state-controlled TV said on Saturday that the Americans had been arrested for illegal entry.

Kurdish officials said the group had camped out Thursday night at the border. Their tents, blankets and other belongings, including notebooks and a bottle of whiskey, were found Friday at the campsite, according to the Times. (Photo credit: WJBF-TV)

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