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Two US journalists could face up to 10 years in labour camp if convicted of "illegal entry" and perpetrating "hostile acts"

(IFJ/IFEX) - The following is a 1 April 2009 IFJ media release:

North Korea Must Release Detained Journalists, Says IFJ

The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) joins international calls for the immediate release of two American journalists currently detained in North Korea. Laura Ling and Euna Lee, reporters with San Francisco-based Current TV, were arrested on March 17 and accused of illegally entering North Korea by crossing the border from China, local media reports said. The journalists were in China to report on refugees who had fled the North Korean regime, news reports said.

North Korean's state-run Korean Central News Agency accused the journalists of "illegal entry" and perpetrating "hostile acts" within the boundaries of North Korea.

If convicted, the journalists could face up to 10 years in a labour camp, local media reports said. "North Korea is a black hole for independent local and foreign media," IFJ General Secretary, Aidan White said.

"The elusiveness of North Korean authorities regarding details of the arrests, detention and welfare of Laura Ling and Euna Lee only underscores the despotic manner in which closed regimes seek to restrict the media and maintain a tight control over information.

"The difficulties in reporting on North Korea, in the interests of its citizens and the wider international community, are echoed in the heavy restrictions on journalists reporting on events in other closed societies such as Burma and Zimbabwe", added White. "But, North Korea is the worst country for freedom of the press, according to Freedom House's 2008 global ranking report."

Some international groups believe the motivation for the detentions is heightened tensions between the United States and North Korea about a proposed test of North Korea's long-range missile technology.

The IFJ urges the international diplomatic community and press freedom and human rights groups to work together for the immediate release of Lee and Ling.

The IFJ represents over 600,000 journalists in 123 countries worldwide.

Updates the Ling and Lee cases: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/102004

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