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World Press Freedom Day: when governments take journalists hostage

(RSF/IFEX) - In the run-up to World Press Freedom Day on 3 May 2009, Reporters Without Borders is campaigning for the release of three women journalists who have been "taken hostage" by governments.

Four members of Reporters Without Borders have been on hunger strike since 28 April in support of Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who has been sentenced to eight years in prison in Iran on a charge of spying for the United States.

Saberi has herself been on hunger strike since 21 April in protest against her conviction on a trumped-up charge. Her life is in danger. Reporters Without Borders is taking over her hunger strike so that she does not have to continue it herself. Beginning on 3 May, similar protests are going to be staged in Canada, the United States, Britain, Belgium and Spain.

There is also an urgent need to obtain the release of two American journalists employed by California-based Current TV, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who have been held in Pyongyang since 17 March.

During a special evening event dedicated to the subject of North Korea which Reporters Without Borders organised in Paris on 27 April, the French secretary of state for foreign affairs and human rights, Rama Yade, offered her support for human rights organisations campaigning for their release.

The detention of Saberi, Lee and Ling on arbitrary charges demonstrates more than ever the importance of World Press Freedom Day, which we will be celebrating on 3 May. We appeal to the Iranian and North Korean authorities to free these three women without delay.

Saberi, Lee and Ling are professional journalists who are neither spies nor criminals. Through them, press freedom and the right to report the news freely are being taken hostage by Iran and North Korea.

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