August 28, 2006
His Excellency Omar Hassan al-Bashir
President of the Republic of Sudan
c/o His Excellency Ambassador Khidir Haroun Ahmed
Embassy of the Republic of Sudan
2210 Massachusetts Avenue, N.W.
Washington, D. C. 20006
By Facsimile: (202) 667-2406
The Committee to Protect Journalists is writing to express grave concern about the detention and criminal prosecution of Paul Salopek, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter for the Chicago Tribune, who was charged on Saturday with espionage and two other criminal counts in a Sudanese court.
On August 6, pro-Sudanese government forces detained Salopek along with his Chadian interpreter Suleiman Abakar Moussa and driver Idriss Abdelrahman Anu, in Sudan’s Darfur region. Salopek was on a freelance assignment for the U.S. magazine National Geographic to report on the culture, geography, and history of Africa’s Sahel region.
On Saturday, a court in El-Fasher charged Salopek and the two Chadians with espionage, illegally disseminating information, and writing “false news,” in addition to a non-criminal count of entering the country without a visa. Their trial is scheduled for September 10.
We view the espionage accusation and other criminal charges made against Salopek and his colleagues as absurd and a violation of the most basic norms for freedom of the press. Paul Salopek is one of the world’s most honored and highly respected foreign correspondents, and he was simply doing his job of reporting the news.
At least one other foreign journalist is being held in Sudan. Tomo Kriznar was detained in Darfur on July 19 and sentenced on August 14 to two years in prison on what we view as a spurious charge of espionage. CPJ has received reports that Kriznar, a Slovenian freelance photographer who once served as an envoy for Slovenian President Janez Drnovsek, is in poor health amid substandard jail conditions.
The Committee to Protect Journalists urges you to use your good offices to ensure that these journalists, who were merely attempting to carry out their professional work, are freed at once.
Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. We await your reply.