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Monday, August 28, 2006

NAAJA Urges Sudan to release Journalist

The National Arab American Journalists Association called on the Government of Sudan to drop charges against a prominent American journalist accused of spying.

Paul Salopek, a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the Chicago Tribune, was charged with espionage and two other criminal counts in a Sudanese court Saturday (August 26, 2006) , three weeks after he was detained by pro-government forces in the war-torn province of Darfur, according to the Chicago Tribune Sunday.

Salopek, 44, was on a freelance assignment for National Geographic magazine, the newspaper wrote, when he was arrested with two Chadian nationals, his interpreter and driver. If convicted, they could be imprisoned for years.

"Salopek is a highly regarded journalist and that achievement must be weighed when considering his fate. The National Arab American Journalists Association urges the Government of Sudan to recognize Salopek for what he is, a professional journalist seeking to report on a story," said NAAJA Chicago Chapter organizer Ray Hanania.

Salopek was on a scheduled leave of absence from the Tribune when he and the two Chadians were detained Aug. 6 and jailed. All three were officially charged this past week with espionage, passing information illegally and writing "false news," in addition to a violation of Sudan's immigration laws by entering the country without a visa.

Salopek was on assignment to write an article on the sub-Saharan African region known as the Sahel for National Geographic, a prestigious magazine that has a proven record of balanced and rich reporting on Middle East countries, culture and events.

NAAJA urges its members to write on this topic and urge the Sudanese government to respect the rights of journalists and respect the facts which suggest that Salopek is not a spy but a dedicated and proven professional journalist trying to do his job.


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