for National Geographic News
New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson is heading to Sudan to meet with the African country's president on behalf of imprisoned journalist Paul Salopek.
National Geographic magazine Editor in Chief Chris Johns; Salopek's wife, Linda Lynch; and several others are also traveling today to the capital, Khartoum, to appeal for Salopek's release (map of the region).
The Chicago Tribune correspondent, a New Mexico resident and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner, was reporting freelance for National Geographic magazine when he was arrested last month after crossing from Chad into Sudan's Darfur Province.
(National Geographic News and National Geographic magazine are parts of the National Geographic Society.)
Often when journalists encounter such problems, they are deported. Salopek, however, was charged with espionage, passing information illegally, and disseminating "false news."
None of these charges are true, says National Geographic's Johns.
"Ensuring Paul Salopek's safety and obtaining his release has been National Geographic's and my highest priority for over a month," Johns said yesterday in a statement.
Considered a potential Democratic presidential nominee for 2008, Richardson was U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations and energy secretary during the Clinton Administration.
Last weekend Richardson met in Washington, D.C., with Sudan's Ambassador to the U.S., Khidir Haroun Ahmed. Afterward, the governor told reporters that he was "positive and hopeful" of achieving Salopek's release.
That dinner meeting led to an invitation to travel to Sudan to meet with President Omar Al-Bashir. In addition to urging the release of Salopek on humanitarian grounds, Richardson will also be seeking the freedom of Salopek's two Chadian colleagues, who were arrested with him.
"Paul Salopek is clearly not a spy," Richardson said in a statement.
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