Everyone wants to be a journalist but very few know what the real job of a journalist is. It's not about two hour lunches, corner offices or red carpet events. Calling yourself a journalist isn't all about entertainment journalism or blogging about your favorite rapper. Journalism is a thankless job. You will not make millions, no one really knows your name nor will they value your work.
Everyday around the globe a journalist is killed, kidnapped, tortured or exiled for doing their job. Right now, two American journalists are sitting in a North Korean prison, sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for of all things, crossing the into the country's border with on assignment.
Laura Ling and Euna Lee work for former Vice President Al Gore's San Francisco-based Current TV media venture. North Korean guards arrested Ling and Lee near the China-North Korean border on March 17. The two were reporting about the trafficking of North Korean women at the time of their arrest, and it's unclear if they strayed into the North or were grabbed by aggressive border guards who crossed into China. A cameraman and their local guide escaped. Details of their arrest are sketchy since the media of North Korea is government controlled. Monday, after a five day trial the two women were sentenced to 12 years of hard labor for "hostility toward the Korean people."
You may be thinking, 12 years for that?
In order to understand the absurdity of North Korea's verdict, you need to understand the country that is the Democratic People's Republic of Korea. Following War World II, Korea was split into two occupied zones. The north was occupied by the Soviet Union. The South as occupied by America. In 1950 the two sides began a war for total control of the region resulting in the Korean War. Three years later a truce was drawn but on May 26, 2009 North Korea withdrew from the truce.
North Korea is a loose canon. It is a communist dictatorship masked as a democratic state. It's current leader is Kim Jong-il, the son of the country's one and only president Kim Il--Sung who passed away in 1994 but was proclaimed the "Eternal President". Freedom of expression is outlawed in North Korea including culture, religion or speech. Anyone who speaks out against Jong-il and the government is swiftly imprisoned and never heard of again.
Here's an interesting look at life in North Korea:
Some are hinting that the imprisonment of Ling and Lee isn't just about the ladies crossing a border. It's no secret that Americans in foreign land are highly prized chess pieces. Usually, American politicians go over and mash out a deal to release the Americans or get a lighter punishment. There's no word on who, if anyone, President Obama plans to send over and work thing out.
The Taliban has captured Americans in an attempt to get people released from Guantanamo Bay. Earlier this year Somali pirates held and American captain ransom. There is a possibility that Ling and Lee's sentence was so severe in a passive aggressive attempt to stick it to South Korea and its ally the United States, which are pushing for U.N. sanctions to punish North Korea for its latest nuclear blast and barrage of missile tests.
In case you didn't know, North Korea hates America and all countries that associate with us. For years, they've been illegally building nuclear weapons and recently started testing them. By hell or high water, North Korea's goal is to become a dominate world power.
Political ploy aside, should these two women who were doing a job they love have to suffer for this? Would you want to be a journalist if it meant every story you covered lead to your possible death or arrest? Would you rush to the comments section of your favorite website if you know your views would be held against you by the government? Well, the growing popularity of citizen journalism and blogs in oppressed countries is resulting in just that.
Journalists needs to receive the same respect as a firefighter, solider, cop, doctor. A journalist has the ability to saves lives, make change, heal wounds. Dare I say it, being a journalist, a real journalist is one of the hardest jobs in the world.
The X Fact(her) is a weekly column that appears on 99problems.org. Started on Inauguration Day 2009 by the League of Young Voter's Education Fund, 99problems.org is a non-profit initiative that aims to keep young people engaged in the political process through activism and community involvement. Please visit 99problems.org to find out how you can get involved right now! For more on Chloé A. Hilliard visitwww.chloehilliard.com