RELEASE TIME: IMMEDIATE, Friday 12 June 2009
THE CHARTERED INSTITUTE OF JOURNALISTS (CIoJ) is writing to Kim Jong-un to ask him to intervene in the sentencing of two US journalists, Laura Long and Euna Lee, to 12 years hard labour in North Korea on Monday June 8.
Earlier this month Kim Jong-un, 26, was appointed to succeed his father Kim Jong-il as the head of the Korean Workers’ Party and head of state of North Korea and the CIoJ believe that he is in a position to review the length of the sentences.
CIoJ President Liz Justice said: “We are writing to ask Jong-un to show leniency and release the two women from a physically stringent sentence for what appears to be illegally crossing the border from China to a country which bans foreign journalists.
“We are not saying they did or did not break the North Korean law, but 12 years for trying and failing to cross the border is extremely harsh.”
The two reporters worked for a San Francisco TV production company which is owned by former US Vice President Al Gore. Many regard the sentence as indicative of an increase in hostility between the US and North Korean Governments.
“As the oldest professional journalist body in the world, we are making this very personal and professional approach because we understand that he was educated in Switzerland and will recognise that these journalists were on a path of discovery which posed no real threat to North Korea.
“We know that Jong-un is well respected and in our letter have pointed out that any positive action by him leading to the release of these journalists will be recognised as a mark of his enlightened approach in a country that many outsiders regard as austere and closed.”