North Korea will try American journalists

New York, April 24, 2009–The Committee to Protect Journalists expressed concern today after North Korea announced that it would try American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee on unspecified criminal charges, according to international news reports.

The Associated Press reported that a dispatch from the country said the pair would be tried for “confirmed charges” without specifying the nature of those charges or a timetable for the legal proceedings. “The relevant agencies of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have concluded the investigation of the U.S. journalists,” Bloomberg reported the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) as saying today. “They decided to formally bring them to trial, based on their documented crimes.”

 “We are extremely concerned that Laura Ling and Euna Lee are to be tried on criminal charges for working as journalists,” said CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney.  “We urge the North Korean authorities to reconsider this decision and release them immediately.”

North Korean guards detained Ling and Lee, who work for California-based Current TV, near the country’s border with China on March 17. They had been reporting on North Korean immigrants in China, news reports said. KCNA said they last month that the two had been arrested on charges of illegally entering the country with the intent to commit “hostile acts,” according to CNN.

U.S. officials have acknowledged the detentions and said that the government is working through Sweden because there are no diplomatic relations between the United States and Iran. State Department acting spokesman Robert Wood told reporters on Friday: “We continue to call on the North Koreans to release the two Americans so they can be returned to their families,” according to Agence France-Presse.