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National Geographic, Chicago Tribune release statements in support of Pulitzer-winner charged with spying in Sudan

Published: Saturday August 26, 2006

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Both National Geographic and The Chicago Tribune released statements in support of two-time Pulitzer-winning journalist Paul Salopek who was detained three weeks ago by Sudanese authorities before being charged with espionage and reporting "false news" in court on Saturday.

"Our colleague and dear friend, Paul Salopek, is one of the most accomplished and admired journalists of our time," said Tribune Editor and Senior Vice President Ann Marie Lipinski in one statement. "He is not a spy."

"Our fervent hope is that the authorities in Sudan will recognize his innocence and quickly allow Paul to return home to his wife, Linda, and to his colleagues," Lipinski said.

"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," said National Geographic Magazine Editor in Chief Chris Johns in the magazine's statement. "He had no agenda other than to fairly and accurately report on the region."

"National Geographic magazine vigorously protests this accusation and appeals to Sudan for his immediate release and the release of two Chadians assisting him," said the magazine's statement.

Excerpts from National Geographic's statement:


Salopek and his Chadian driver and interpreter were formally charged with criminal acts of espionage, reporting official documents, reporting false information and entering Sudan without a visa. The men's attorney Omer Hassan filed a motion for a continuance which was granted. The trial is scheduled to begin September 10 in El Fashir in Northern Darfur Province, Sudan.

Salopek, 44, is a two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and has been a correspondent for the Chicago Tribune since 1996.

National Geographic has been diligently working with the Chicago Tribune and many others in and out of Sudan to secure the release of Salopek and the two men assisting him.

In 1998 Salopek won the Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Reporting for his coverage of the human genome diversity project; in 2001 he won a Pulitzer for International Reporting, recognizing his work in Africa, including his coverage of the civil war in Congo.

Salopek was on the staff of National Geographic magazine from 1992 to 1995. In those years he contributed to a score of articles, including a bylined feature on mountain gorillas in the wake of Rwanda's civil war (October 1995).

By traveling some 3,500 miles across the width of the African continent for National Geographic magazine - from the Chad-Sudan border region to Senegal by way of Niger, Mali, and Nigeria - Salopek is now working to educate National Geographic readers about the various factors, human and otherwise, that make life in the Sahel so extraordinary. These include the geography, history, culture, environment, wildlife, natural resources, religions, landscapes, and humanity of the region. The Chad-Sudan border region is just one small part of a much larger coverage area.