The night before this week’s latest round of Laura Ling–Euna Lee vigils, @lisaling proved once again how useful it is in these trying times to have the toolset of a hardened journalist.
Not once but twice, during a half-hour interactive TV and online appearance in Sacramento with @SharonItonNews10, she calmly responded to the latter’s relaying of cruel online comments about the fate of the two journalists. Ling insisted that the expression of such opinions is a necessary aspect of this country’s freedom of speech provisions.
And make no mistake; since the State Department first confirmed on June 12th that Ling, Lee and producer-cameraman Mitch Koss did indeed step across the Chinese-North Korean border, the number of articles, blogs and online comments stating that the punishment fits the crime has increased exponentially. Though some of these items are tempered with a desire to see the pair released, others are anchored in a firm belief that no sympathy is in order here (especially considering the risk taken was one that was not germane to the story these journalists were reporting).
Which is why this week’s shift from a humanitarian Ling–Lee plea to one of amnesty is in some ways the first time the matter has felt completely aligned. After months of debate about whether or not Ling and Lee crossed the border on March 17th and how cognizant they should have been that North Korea falls into the category of countries that does not detain-and-deport members of the fifth estate, it comes down to Laura Ling this past Tuesday making statements such as the following one to husband Iain Clayton: “We have been tried, we have confessed, we have been sentenced and we need to start from that position.”
In short order, a Wednesday conference call between the families and the State Department has been followed by official requests of amnesty for Ling and Lee by State Department spokesperson Ian Kelly yesterday and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today. You can’t blame the families and politicians for playing the humanitarian card (especially given Ling‘s pre-existing medical condition).
But let’s face it, bargaining from the starting point of an admission of guilt seems to be a strategy that has a much higher chance of breaking through the North Korean government’s intransigence.