WASHINGTON — New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson will fly to Sudan’s capital on Thursday to urge the African country’s president to release imprisoned Chicago Tribune correspondent Paul Salopek on humanitarian grounds, the governor’s office announced.
In what Richardson’s office described as a “positive and hopeful” development, the governor received a formal invitation this week to meet with President Omar al-Bashir in Khartoum.
The invitation followed Richardson’s dinner last week in Washington with Sudan’s ambassador to the U.S., Khidir Haroun Ahmed, whom the Democratic governor befriended a decade ago when he negotiated the return of American hostages held by Sudanese rebels.
“Paul Salopek is clearly not a spy,” Richardson said in announcing the trip. “He’s my constituent and he is a talented and respected journalist who was attempting to do his job telling the story of the people, culture and history of the sub-Saharan region known as the Sahel. I will encourage President al-Bashir to recognize the essential role of journalists and release Paul and his colleagues on humanitarian grounds.”
Salopek’s one of the best journalists working today, a guy I could read if he wrote about cereal. Kudos to Richardson for standing up for him and by extension, for all journalists who face these kinds of dangers simply for doing their jobs.