Freedom to Write Links

Anyone who values the freedom of speech had to feel inspired by the news yesterday that two journalists, Laura Ling and Euna Lee, had been released from imprisonment in North Korea. Ling and Lee are employed by Al Gore’s news channel Current TV. Earlier this year, the women were working on a story on the China-North Korea border when they were apprehended for allegedly entering North Korean territory. On June 8, they were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor and imprisoned. Yesterday, former president Bill Clinton negotiated the release of the women and they returned with Clinton to southern California.

Describing their release, Ling said yesterday:

“Thirty hours ago, Euna Lee and I were prisoners in North Korea. We feared that at any moment we could be sent to a hard labor camp. Then suddenly we were told that we were going to a meeting. We were taken to a location and when we walked through the doors, we saw standing before us President Bill Clinton. We were shocked, but we knew instantly in our hearts that the nightmare of our lives was finally coming to an end. And now we stand here home and free.”

I can’t imagine what it was like the moment these journalists saw the former president, and realized that they would be freed.

Back in June, news sources were reporting that Bill Richardson and Al Gore were involved in possible diplomatic negotiations to free the women, but apparently Kim Jong-il requested that Bill Clinton come to North Korea and personally apologize for the journalists’ actions.

I don’t think I’ve ever agreed with anything Maureen Dowd has written, but she had a point when she wrote that the request for Bill Clinton seemed like a calculated slight to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, given the recent sexist remarks that N. Korean officials made about her. It smells of racial bias, too, like the North Korean government wanted to embarrass President Obama by using Bill Clinton. I’m just glad we have a president who is confident enough to ignore slights and who acted, in this case, in the best interest of two deserving Americans.

Here are a few links in honor of writers and journalists who act with courage:

Isak has videos of Laura Ling’s investigative work.

Formerly imprisoned author Chris Abani in a TED talk he gave in December 2008.

PEN American Center has recognized and encouraged the freedom to write since 1921. Why not support PEN?

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