Laura Ling and Euna Lee, Jailed US Journalists: Who Are They?
Two female American journalists Laura Ling, 32 and Euna Lee, 36, have been given 12 years of hard labour by the North Korean government on Monday. The two stand accused of committing unspecified “grave crimes” against North Korea and entering the country illegally. Whatever the charges, many in the world speculate that the two journalists will be used by North Korea as a political lever in the negotiations with the rest of the world over the sanctions to be imposed on North Korea for testing out its nuclear power in May of this year.
But who are these two women and what work did they do before getting arrested and jailed in North Korea?
Both Ling and Lee worked for Current TV based out of San Francisco. According to TheStar.com, Current TV has said that journalists were in the area on an assignment examining the human trafficking across the border China-North Korea border. A cameraman and a driver who were with the two arrested journalists at the time of capture have escaped arrest.
Interestingly, CurrentTV has yet to mention anything about the arrest of their two reporters on their website www.current.com.
Laura Ling, 32
Ling’s professional profile can be seen here at http://current.com/users/lauraling.htm
Her Current TV ‘About me’ intro reads:
Is the media broken?
I’m rarely inspired by what I see in the media. Television is supposed to be the most powerful medium—but TV news seems to be anything but powerful. Vanguard is trying to change that. We’re trying to provide knowledge and context about what’s happening in our world as opposed to just covering random news events. We hope our work generates dialogue about the important issues affecting our lives. I’d love to hear your feedback about what we’re doing and how we can be doing things better.
It seems Ling enjoyed doing 'hard' journalism, exploring such issues as drug trafficking in California, violent slums in Haiti and bird flu pandemic.
Laura's older sister is a famous American journalist Lisa Ling who co-hosted ABC's talk show The View with Barbara Walters until 2002. She later moved on to report for the National Geographic and CNN. MTV.com reports that Lisa Ling told CNN last week, "When the girls [Ling and Lee] left the United States, they never intended to cross into North Korean soil. And if they did at any point, we apologize."
Laura LingI’m rarely inspired by what I see in the media. Television is supposed to be the most powerful medium—but TV news seems to be anything but powerful.
Euna Lee, 36
Euna Lee went under the cogname Saldate72 on the CurrentTV website. From her profile, it appears that she has recently joined the network, and did not have the time to make many online contributions. However, www.act-edit.com lists what seems to be Euna Lee's resume, from which it can be assumed that she has background in film and broadcasting, and has been working as a film and online editor since 2000.
The Committee to Protect Journalists, an independent, nonprofit organization created to defend the rights of journalists to report the news without fear of reprisal worldwide, has issued a statement, saying:
"Euna Lee and Laura Ling are journalists who were doing their jobs reporting on an important humanitarian story. It is deplorable that they have been tried as criminals and sentenced so harshly.
The International Women's Media Foundation (IWMF) has released its own call-to-action statement too
The IWMF calls for a fair trial for and the unconditional release of American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, who have been detained in North Korea since March 17.
The two women, reporters for the U.S.-based Current TV, were put on trial June 4 in Pyongyang’s top Central Court. They are charged with engaging in “hostile acts” and entering the country illegally. If convicted, they could face up to 15 years of hard labor.
The IWMF, along with Reporters Without Borders, petitioned for the reporters’ release. The combined signatures were delivered to the North Korea Mission to the United Nations on June 3.
It is being reported that the American government is “engaged through all possible channels to secure the release” of the two journalists.
There seems to be a trend recently involving young, highly educated female journalists getting in trouble in the world’s most scandalous countries and political regimes. In late 2008, CBC's National correspondent Melissa Fung was captured in Afghanistan, and rescued weeks later in what was alleged to be a prisoner's exchange. Just last month, the world heard about the release of the American-Iranian journalist Roxana Saberi who was sentenced to 8 years in Iranian prison on charges of espionage. Saberi was released on May 11 when her jail term was reduced to a two-year suspended sentence after numerous interventions by the U.S. diplomats.
The boldness with which these young women dive into the world of investigative journalism is unprecedented. But is it because doing so is the only way for these young females to prove themselves in the world of ‘real’ journalism? Do they feel like they have take on the extra risks to really prove themselves as tough, conscientious journalists? Finally, did gender play a role in the decision of North Korean’s government to sentence these two journalists to 12 years of hard labour? And, would have male American journalists received the same treatment from North Korea?
A special facebook page has been dedicated to Laura Ling and Euna Lee. It can be viewed here.