National Geographic reporter faces espionage charges in Sudan

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Paul Salopek, a two-time Pulitzer Prize winning reporter for the Chicago Tribune, was charged with espionage, along with two others in Sudan yesterday. Salopek, 44, has been on a freelance assignment for National Geographic writing a story about the sub-Saharan African region known as the Sahel. The official charges include espionage, passing information illegally, writing "false news" and entering the country without a visa.

The charges come three weeks after he, along with his driver and interpreter, were arrested on August 6th by pro-government forces in Darfur. His driver and interpreter, both Chadian nationals, are both accused of espionage as well. At the moment, he has been granted a defense motion for a continuance, delaying the start of the trial until September 10th. Until then both the editors of the Chicago Tribune and National Geographic are working through diplomatic channels to ensure his release back to the United States.

National Geographic Magazine Editor in Chief Chris Johns was quoted as saying, "Paul Salopek was on assignment for National Geographic magazine to write a comprehensive feature article on the swath of sub-Saharan Africa known as the Sahel. He had no agenda other than to fairly and accurately report on the region. He is a world-recognized journalist of the highest standing, with a deep knowledge and respect for the continent of Africa and its people."

The situation is being monitored by U.S. politicians including the junior Senator Barack Obama, who is currently visiting Africa. He had this to say about the current situation: "One of our reporters from the Chicago Tribune is currently being detained in the Sudan, allegedly for espionage," Obama said, speaking about the issue to a wide audience of Kenyan journalists. "This is an issue that myself, the U.S State Department and international journalists organizations are taking very seriously."