"Obama ‘Concerned’ Over U.S. Journalists in North Korea, Iran
By Heejin Koo
May 2 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. President Barack Obama said in a statement late yesterday he was “especially concerned” about two American journalists detained in North Korea and another in Iran.
The U.S. government is “especially concerned about the citizens from our own country currently under detention abroad: individuals such as Roxana Saberi in Iran, and Euna Lee and Laura Ling in North Korea,” the president said a statement to mark the World Press Freedom Day on May 3.
His statement was to “sound the alarm about the growing number of journalists silenced by death or jail as they attempt to bring daily news to the public,” it said.
North Korea announced on April 24 it will put two U.S. journalists on trial, risking an escalation in tensions triggered by the nation’s April 5 missile test. North Korea detained Lee and Ling on March 17 for allegedly entering the country illegally from China. They were reporting for San Francisco-based Current TV on the plight of North Koreans fleeing the country.
The U.S. has been working with the government of Sweden on the case, U.S. Special Representative on North Korea Stephen Bosworth told reporters in Washington on April 13. Sweden, unlike the U.S., has a diplomatic mission in Pyongyang.
The Vienna-based media rights group International Press Institute said April 20 the two reporters are being held as “political hostages” in negotiations with the Obama administration.
North Korea on April 14 withdrew from six-party talks aimed at eliminating the nation’s nuclear-weapons program, and expelled United Nations atomic inspectors.
Saberi, who holds U.S. and Iranian citizenship, was convicted of spying in a closed trial. Iran routinely accuses the U.S. of sending agents and seeking to topple the Islamic regime. In January, the government in Tehran said it dismantled a network that benefited from U.S. funds and Central Intelligence Agency guidance in planning a “soft overthrow” of the Shiite Muslim cleric-led government.