1 April 2009


Two U.S. women journalists who were reporting on the fate of North Korean women being smuggled and sold to China have been detained in North Korea for more than a week on charges of entering the country illegally and carrying out "hostile" activities. Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and the International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) have launched a petition calling for their release.

According to RSF, Laura Ling and Euna Lee are currently being held in Pyongyang by the authorities, who have accused them of being spies who entered North Korea illegally. If convicted, they face between five and 10 years of forced labour, says RSF. The North Korean government has allegedly claimed that they were being treated well, although independent sources have been unable to confirm this.

"Pyongyang authorities have no reason to hold them or to accuse them of illegal activities. They should be freed at once," said RSF and IWMF.

The two journalists, their cameraman, Mitch Koss, and their guide were on a reporting assignment near the country's border with China for the San Francisco-based media outlet Current TV.

Koss was allowed to leave China after being held by the Chinese authorities for several days. He was with Lee and Ling at the time of their arrest on 17 March, but managed to escape from the North Korean border guards. Their guide, a Chinese citizen of North Korean origin, is apparently still being held by the Chinese police.

According to CPJ, details about the arrests were incomplete and conflicting. It has not been determined exactly where the women were arrested, and even whether it was on North Korean or Chinese soil. One South Korean news agency reported that the journalists were detained after they refused to stop filming.

CPJ says the North Korean government rarely issues visas allowing foreign journalists to visit the country, and then only under official supervision. In nearby Chinese territory, Chinese police and North Korean agents make working on the border very risky, RSF says.

Sign the petition: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=30691
For more on the Ling and Lee case, see:
- CPJ, "Reports say North Korea has detained U.S. journalist": http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/101736- RSF, "Two American journalists face up to 10 years in labour camps": http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=30720(Photo: Euna Lee and Laura Ling, courtesy of AP via CPJ)

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