Freeing the truth

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The truth can be quite comical sometimes. It always has a way of coming out, even when a person does not want it to. That is why stifling facts and opinions from the citizenry of a country only lead to problems — the kind of problems North Korea has right now.

The North Korean government arrested two American journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, on the grounds of entering the country illegally. Ling and Lee were in the country working for Current TV, a media network co-founded by former vice president Al Gore.

The journalists pursued a story on North Koreans who flee the country. The pair was put on trial and sentenced to 12-years in a North Korean labor camp.

Now North Korea possesses a problem because the truth has come out.
The United Nations unanimously voted to impose stricter sanctions against the country. Even China and Russia, the country’s two closest allies, voted for the sanctions. The sanctions dealt mainly with the nuclear weapon tests this country has conducted, but detaining these women certainly makes this a little more complex.

If the North wants to be taken seriously, it needs to change it ways.
As a fellow journalist and writer, I admire these women. They believed in the powers of a free press and information. Apparently the North Korean government saw this as well.

I am not sure many journalists would risk imprisonment in a foreign country to further their craft. The public does deserve the truth though. People like Ling and Lee have furthered this country’s commitment to free speech.

The way North Korea has treated these Americans infuriates me. Their trial was conducted in secret in Pyongyang’s Central Court, the highest court in North Korea.

Because of this, no one can overturn their sentence. The action that has been taken on these women is not just unfair to them — it also reflects the country’s disdain for its citizens.

Maybe North Korea is trying to make an example of Lee and Ling. Imprisoning people who seek out the truth will definitely keep it hidden for longer. A free press keeps a government honest. Without it lies may as well fill the airwaves. North Koreans do have a right to know what is going on in their own country.

I hoped this would be a modern day John Peter Zenger case for North Korea.

The two women would be tried, but the verdict overturned and, as a result, the press would have more freedom. This was not to be. It seems that my idealistic nature got the best of me.

Justice may be served though. In a Washington Post article, Andrei Lankov, an expert on North Korea who teaches at Kookmin University in South Korea, said, “The verdict does not mean much since they will get released.”

Apparently North Korea has a history of caving in when it is offered food and fuel among other things.

I can only hope this to be the case. It seems asinine that in the 21st century people cannot report the facts.

These two journalists did follow their story straight into a labor camp, but they did so making an oppressed public a little smarter and more aware. I hope Laura Ling, Euna Lee and their families can take solace in this act of nobility.

Andrew can be reached at
andrew.hedlund@asu.edu