As featured on p. 218 of "Bloggers on the Bus," under the name "a MyDD blogger."

Monday, May 11, 2009

The Other Imprisoned Journalists

I'm pleased that Roxana Saberi has been released by the Iranian government. Clearly they found the public relations hit too much to take, and this augurs well for their sensitivity to global public opinion and their desire to put negotiations with the US over their nuclear program on a firm footing.

There's more than one journalist held as a political prisoner around the world, however, some by this country's military in the Middle East. Those are important, but I want to hone in on the journalist I actually know now being held in North Korea. Things are not improving on that front:

Under international criminal law, defendants have the right to access diplomatic officers of their own state. But American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, detained for nearly two months, haven't been allowed contact with Western officials since March 30. A South Korean man known only by his surname, Yu, also has been kept from any contact with officials from his country, according to the South's Unification Ministry.

The North said on April 24 that it would put the two women on trial for "hostile acts," in what would be its first trial of Americans, but it didn't say when. It has given no details to the U.S. or to Sweden, which has diplomatic relations with North Korea and provides services to U.S. citizens in the country.

Mats Foyer, the Swedish ambassador in Pyongyang, met with Ms. Lee and Ms. Ling separately on March 30. He declined to comment on the situation late last week, and referred questions to the State Department. An official there said Mr. Foyer has "repeatedly requested additional visits," but none have been allowed.

U.S. officials have said less about Ms. Lee and Ms. Ling than they have about an American reporter, Roxana Saberi, who was recently convicted of espionage in Iran. The strategy is partly a gamble that not provoking the North Koreans may lead to a speedy resolution, analysts say, but it's also a sign of the increased uncertainty in dealing with Pyongyang.

We've actually made connections with the Iranian government under Obama, but less so with North Korea. Euna Lee and Laura Ling are paying for the lack of outreach.

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