For Immediate Release:
Dave Aeikens, SPJ President, (320) 249-3545,
Karen Grabowski, SPJ Communications Coordinator, (317) 927-8000 ext. 215,
INDIANAPOLIS – The Society of Professional Journalists is outraged over the 12-year prison labor sentence for U.S. journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, convicted over the weekend in North Korea.
Lee and Ling, who work for San Francisco-based Current TV, were detained March 17 while filming a documentary near the China-North Korea border. Though legally filming in China, it’s unclear whether the pair and their cameraman actually crossed into North Korea illegally. Some reports indicate North Korean border guards may have crossed into China to arrest them.
“This entire case is absolutely a sham and an unnecessary show of force by a hostile government,” said SPJ President Dave Aeikens. “North Korea will never be taken seriously on the world stage if it continues to stymie press freedom and act like an adolescent bully.”
The Obama administration has been tracking the situation and vowed to “engage in all possible channels” to secure the journalists’ release. An envoy or goodwill negotiator from the U.S. is one possibility. Former U.N. ambassador and current New Mexico governor Bill Richardson, for example, negotiated the 1996 release of Evan C. Hunziker, who was accused of spying after crossing from China into North Korea on a dare.
“We encourage the U.S. State Department to engage North Korea in diplomatic talks to help bring these two courageous women home,” said Aeikens. “Send an envoy or step-up pressure from the United Nations. Whatever it takes, we can’t let North Korea continue to use these innocent journalists as political bargaining chips.”
This marks the second time SPJ has spoken out for the release of Lee and Ling. Read a previous statement here. SPJ also advocated during the same time for the release of U.S. journalist Roxana Saberi, detained in Iran in late January, sentenced to eight years and eventually released in May. See a previous SPJ statement on Saberi here.
Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ promotes the free flow of information vital to a well-informed citizenry; works to inspire and educate the next generation of journalists; and protects First Amendment guarantees of freedom of speech and press. For more information about SPJ, please visit www.spj.org.