On March 17, journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling from Current TV, a media venture by former Vice President Al Gore, were detained at the North Korean–Chinese border by the NK government.
Their supposed crime? Illegally entering the country and committing “hostile acts.” The reporters were working on a story about North Korean refugees.
Last week, the journalists were sentenced to 12 years in labor camps for crimes against North Korea. Many think that North Korea is using the journalists as bargaining chips in order to establish ties with the United States and ease sanctions. In addition, the United States has to also accept North Korea as a nuclear-armed state. The United States currently has no diplomatic relations with the communist country.
In formulating this editorial, we asked ourselves, what can we actually do? How can we truly help in a way that’s not contrived or pointless? We thought about signing petitions, writing letters aimed at the North Korean government, urging for the release of the journalists. But then we thought, well, no one from the government would read it, and no one would care about what private U.S. citizens have to say.
Since the harsh sentencing, Ling and Lee’s respective families have been on a recent media blitz, talking about their anguish and concerns over the last three months. On “Larry King Live,” Ling’s sister Lisa Ling, also a journalist, said that seeing the outpouring of support through the social networking Web site Facebook was “the strangest comfort,” because it showed the family how much and how many people in the country are thinking about the detained journalists.
Lisa Ling’s statement made us rethink our approach in this editorial. Rather than think about what we can do to help secure a release for the journalists — we should think about how we can show our support, so that they know that there are people who care.
A person who has a unique point of view on the whole situation is journalist Roxana Saberi, who was recently released from Iran after she was imprisoned there for four months. Saberi has publicly spoken about Lee and Ling’s case. She made the distinction that her imprisonment and their situation are very different, but she emphasized how important the outpouring of support for her was — from governments, private citizens, to groups.
Initially, media coverage of the journalists’ detainment was sparse. Support groups on Facebook and other social networking Web sites helped to publicize the event. The sites also serve as a tool for supporters all over the country to coordinate vigils and send updates simultaneously to thousands of members.
Saberi said it was comforting to know that so many people in the United States were supporting her and urged everyone to do the same for Lee and Ling. “This backing made me aware that I was not alone. It gave me strength to carry on, even in the darkest moments. I felt I could face my interrogators with more courage,” Saberi said. ♦
Visit our Web site at www.nwasianweekly.com to view links for Facebook groups, online petitions, and related content for Lee and Ling.
Facebook group: http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=60755553149&ref=ts