North Korea - American reporters get "very severe" 12-year sentences designed to scare all foreign journalists

    MONTREAL, June 8 /CNW Telbec/ - Reporters Without Borders is appalled by
the sentences of 12 years of "reform through labour" which a North Korean
court passed today on American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee after
convicting them in a sham trial of an unspecified "grave crime" and illegally
entering the country.
    "These 12-year sentences are a terrible shock for all those who have
repeatedly insisted on their innocence," Reporters Without Borders said. "The
sentences are much more severe than anything we had imagined. The authorities
in Pyongyang must urgently reverse this decision and allow Ling and Lee to
rejoin their families."
    The sentences were clearly designed to scare journalists trying to do
investigative reporting in the border area between China and North Korea,
which is ranked as Asia's worst country in the Reporters Without Borders press
freedom index.
    The North Korean state-run news agency KCNA announced today that the
trial of Ling and Lee before the country's top court, which began on 4 June,
had "confirmed the grave crime they committed against the Korean nation" and
their "illegal border crossing."
    Arrested on 17 March 2009, Ling and Lee were initially accused of
"hostile activities" as well as entering the country illegally. The two
journalists, who work for the California-based web television station Current
TV, had approached the border from inside China in order to cover the
trafficking of North Korean women across the border. Their guide is being held
by the Chinese authorities. Ling is of Chinese origin and Lee is of Korean
    Reporters Without Borders took part in recent rallies in support of the
two journalists. Ling's sister, Lisa Ling, said: "I will say with absolute
certainty that, when they left US soil, they never intended to cross the
border into North Korea. If at any point they did, we are truly sorry and we
know the girls are too."
    Iranian-American journalist Roxani Saberi, who was recently detained for
three months in Iran, said in a message of support: "Laura and Euna, I pray
that you remain strong and know that neither your families nor you are alone.
I hope that a way will be found to return both of you to your families as soon
as possible."

For further information:

For further information: Katherine Borlongan, secretary general,
Reporters Without Borders, (514) 521-4111, Cell: (514) 258-4188, Fax: (514)

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