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Laura Ling and Euna Lee Speak Out About Their Arrest

Laura Ling and Euna Lee shed new light on the details of their arrest in statement released today and restated their hopes that in the publicity surrounding their case, their original intention for being in the region will not be forgotten.

Of their time in detainment in North Korea Ling and Lee said, “There are things that are still too painful to revisit.” For now at least, they hope to keep the focus on the story they were there to cover: the extreme hardship in North Korea that sends people fleeing to China, only to face a different kind of struggle.

Although they express some regret for seemingly crossing the unmarked border, there are clear undertones of defiance towards the country that kept them locked up in conditions they are still unable to describe, and pride in the work they were doing.

“Totalitarian regimes the world over are terrified of exposure,” the women said. “Journalists have a responsibility to shine light in dark places, to give voice to those who are too often silenced and ignored.”

You can read the statement in full here.

Photo Credit Jae C. Hong/AP Photo

Not to be Forgotten: Amanda Lindhout’s Latest Plea

As the five month captivity of American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee finally ended today, due to the help of former US President Bill Clinton who traveled to North Korea late Monday August 3, 2009, thousands of supporters worlwide let out a collective sigh of relief. Yet, another desparate plea by another captured journalist went relatively unnoticed.

Canadian freelance reporter Amanda Lindhout has been detained for nearly a year by Somali rebels, along with Australian photographer Nigel Brennan. Lindhout and Brennan’s captors have demanded a ransom of over $1 million dollars, but so far neither the Canadian nor the Australian government have made visible attempts to negotiate the two journalists’ release.

There has been a large outcry over the detention of several American reporters over the last few months, most notably Roxana Saberi who detained by Iran for 100 days before being freed in April, and Ling and Lee, mentioned above. Lawlessness in Somalia itself has been covered extensively since Somali pirates captured an American ship in April, 2009. Yet Lindhout and Brennan’s plight has barely been reported in mainstream media and a petition set up to demand their release has only amassed 1,780 signatures (compare to 88,249 for Ling and Lee or 10,669 for Saberi).

You can watch here to hear excerpts of Lindhout’s emotional call, in which she describes severe medical issues she is suffering from and where she describes why she fears for her life.

Breaking: North Korea Pardons Euna Lee and Laura Ling

After today’s visit by former president Bill Clinton, the North Korean government has agreed to a “special pardon” for the two journalists sentenced to 12 years hard labor.

As we wrote in yesterday’s update, Euna Lee and Laura Ling were arrested on the border of China and North Korea and charged with initiating a “politically motivated smear campaign”. It is unclear whether they were arrested on the Chinese side or the North Korean side, or whether their confessions of guilt were real, coerced, or if they ever actually occurred.

The harsh punishment sent down by leader Kim Jongil is widely believed to be an attempt at gaining worldwide attention and perhaps political leverage.

Click here for the New York Times’ update on the story.

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon

American Journalists Ling and Lee Get Twelve Years Hard Labor in North Korea

American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee have been sentenced to twelve years in a North Korean labor camp, the Korean government has just announced. Ling and Lee were arrested in March while shooting footage of refugees on the border of China and North Korea. They were filming in China but allegedly crossed into North Korean territory when they were detained. The refugees Ling and Lee were covering had fled North Korea for China in search of food. According to KCNA, the country’s official news agency, the two women have been convicted of “committing hostilities against the Korean nation and illegal entry” although they have not specified what these “hostilities”entailed.

A statement just released by Reporters Without Borders says “The sentences were clearly designed to scare journalists trying to do investigative reporting in the border area between China and North Korea, which is ranked as Asia’s worst country in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.”

Many suggest that the two women–Lee, the mother of a four year old daughter, and Ling, who is said to have an ulcer and require medical attention–are merely being used as political pawns as relations between the U.S. and North Korea deteriorate. This sentence comes just one month after the U.S. pushed for UN sanctions against North Korea for testing nuclear weapons.

In two previous incidents in 1994 and 1996 when Americans have been held hostage in North Korea, it took a trip to Pyongyang by then congressman Bill Richardson to leverage the release of the prisoners.

The International Women’s Media Foundation and Reporters Without Borders have launched a petition for the release of the two women. Click here to sign the petition.