Monday, April 20, 2009

3 jailed journalists, 2 very different reactions

Three American female journalists are being held on charges of spying in two of the scariest countries in the world but their news organizations couldn’t be treating the matters any more differently.

Everyone knows that Roxana Saberi, a contributor to National Public Radio in Iran who has been in custody since January, was convicted last week of spying after an evidently coerced confession. You know that, because NPR and other media have been covering the story heavily.

But you may have forgotten that Laura Ling and Euna Lee, two correspondents for Current TV, have been held on similar charges in North Korea since mid-March. That’s because their employer has been maintaining absolute silence about the case.

While you can find 60 mentions of the Saberi case at the NPR website and 16 mentions of her case at Current TV’s site, there is not a word about the plight of Ling and Lee at Current TV. Even NPR has mentioned the Ling-Lee case nine times.

“The most effective thing we can be doing [to help Saberi] is constantly and consistently shining a light on the story,” said Vivian Schiller, the chief executive of NPR, speaking tonight on the PBS News Hour. “It’s the best thing we can do for her.”

In the effort to keep Saberi’s case at the forefront, the network even drew strong support Sunday for the jailed journalist from President Obama.

At Current TV, however, “no comment” is exactly all that chief operating officer Joann Drake Earl had to say today about the case of her two journalists, who were seized at the border between China and North Korea. They had traveled to China to interview North Korean defectors but apparently crossed the frozen Tumen River into North Korea.

It’s not likely that Current TV is any more indifferent to the welfare of its journalists than NPR, but Current TV apparently has been advised to keep a tight lip and low profile in the case so as not to endanger negotiations with the totalitarian and dangerously eccentric North Korean government.

Current TV has been relying on the help of Swedish diplomats, because the United States does not have diplomatic relations with North Korea. Current TV doubtless also benefits from the political clout of former Vice President Al Gore, who is the founder and chairman of the channel.

Even if Current TV feels obliged to hold its peace, there’s no reason for the rest of us to forget about Laura Ling and Euna Lee.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

What in the world is Current TV? Never heard of them, or seen them, as far as I know.

8:14 PM  
Anonymous Anthony Salveggi said...

Alan -- I followed your link to NPR's coverage of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, and while there are nine results, only the first three are about their imprisonment. Still, that's three more than Current TV's website.

1:01 AM  
Blogger Terry MAGUIRE said...

Each case is always at least a little different than all the others. When dealing with the governments of other countries in cases where reporters have been taken into custody in some fashion, we all need to take a deep breath and make sure we are doing the right thing in response. While holding our breath, we owe it to journalism to learn all of the facts and their context; knee-jerk reactions are only occasionally helpful. When we breathe again, it ought to be alongside the person or people who are "representing" the reporters - taking guidance from their plan to resolve the matter. Then, and only then, can we decide what are the best tactics we each might execute in pursuit of a release strategy.

In the meantime, of course, these cases should be the subject of any reporting that any news organization chooses to pursue, including the employer of the reporters. That's a different matter and may be the point that Alan is making here.

2:14 AM  
Blogger J.A.Young said...

Current TV is made up of short video news and features that I find quite interesting. I get it on satellite. I'm in my 50s, but I find myself clicking to it frequently when the babel on cable news gets to be too much.
On the journalists held hostage, it's important to remember that in the rest of the world people put their lives on the line and sometimes die to do the job of journalism. That's a fact that's ignored by the public in the domestic political brawls. It's also ignored in the boardrooms of American media companies.

8:19 AM  
Blogger Gail Towns said...

JByrd: I came across Current TV a year or so ago when I was bemoaning the fact that "there's nothing on TV---even with 800 channels!" And I like it. A lot.

7:36 PM  

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