North Korea should grant amnesty to Ling, Lee

New York, July 16, 2009–North Korea should grant amnesty to U.S. journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who have now been jailed four months following their arrest on the North Korean-Chinese border, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.

North Korean border guards arrested the journalists on March 17 while they were reporting on North Korean refugees for San Francisco-based Current TV. After closed-door proceedings, they were convicted on June 8 of entering North Korea illegally and planning “hostile acts” and were sentenced to 12 years’ labor. 

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said last week that the State Department hoped Ling and Lee would be “granted amnesty through the North Korean system,” according to international news reports.

“Laura Ling and Euna Lee have now spent four months in detention after their arrest on the job, with limited contact with their families” CPJ Deputy Director Robert Mahoney said. “We ask that North Korea shows leniency and let them return home. Their long sentences reflect not the severity of their own acts, but the political environment in which they were working.”

Ling’s sister, Lisa, also an experienced journalist, spoke with CPJ by telephone this morning. “We are still very distressed by the absence of Laura and Euna but remain hopeful that a positive resolution can be reached,” she said. “We hope that [North Korea authorities] respond to the amnesty request from the U.S. government.”

Lisa Ling last spoke with her sister on July 7 and said the journalist sounded “determined.” She and Lee are focusing their hopes on the possibility of clemency from the North Korean government, Lisa Ling told CPJ. 

The journalists’ supporters coordinate public activism and outreach on their behalf through Facebook and Twitter.  CPJ advocacy and coverage of the case is available here.