Today, the the Korean Central News Agency discussed Laura Ling and Euna Lee again: the two American journalists who entered North Korea. We know that they did so illegally, since a North Korean court said so.
"North Korea's state media released a 'detailed report' Tuesday claiming that American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee entered the country illegally in order to record material for a 'smear campaign' against the reclusive communist state.The Korean Central News Agency (KCNA)'s report is a shining light, and an example to journalists everywhere. One way or another.
"It added that the two women 'admitted that what they did were criminal acts ... prompted by the political motive to isolate and stifle the socialist system of the DPRK by faking up moving images aimed at falsifying its human rights performance and hurling slanders and calumnies at it.'..." (CNN)
KCNA Coverage: News Done the Way Dear Leader LikesWhere American reporters and editors might have been asking questions about the treatment of Laura Ling and Euna Lee, and digging for indications of mistreatment, KCNA steadfastly stands by its government, assuring citizens of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea of the correctness of the journalists' conviction: and providing talking points to supporters of the Jong Il dynasty around the world.
Now, think back to American press coverage of the 'hideous mistreatment' of alleged terrorists at Guantanamo. Some of them were forced to sit on grass, and there was some difficulty at first, providing them with food that exactly met their particular dietary specifications. Shocking.
In sharp contrast, KCNA's message is that anybody who is not supportive of Kim Jong Il's regime is pretty much all nasty.
"...'The investigation proved that the intruders crossed the border and committed the crime for the purpose of making animation files to be used for an anti-DPRK smear campaign over its human rights issue,' the Korean Central News Agency said Tuesday...." (CNN)
Let's Keep an Open Mind Here: North Korea, Culture, and ExpectationsI think it could be argued that we may be looking at cultural differences between North Korea and America.
Laura Ling and Euna Lee were in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea as journalists.
"Smear Campaign," "Investigative Reporting:" "Tomato, Tomahto"I get the impression, from the outcome of their closed-door trial and KCNA's latest report, that they were engaged in what has been called "investigative reporting" here in America.
In North Korea, the same thing seems to be called "...making animation files to be used for an anti-DPRK smear campaign over its human rights issue...."
The issue here is a little more basic than the dichotomy dramatized by Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in "Potato, potahto, tomato, tomahto! / Let's call the whole thing off!" ("Shall We Dance" 1937): but there are indications that North Korean authorities cultural norms, and those of the Americans, were not the same.
I think it's possible to argue that the sentencing and imprisonment of the American journalists is as much a matter of clashing cultural values, as law. And, sadly for the two American journalists, we can't "call the whole thing off."
Not, I suspect, until Kim Jong Il gets whatever concessions or favors he wants this time. I could be wrong, but I still strongly suspect that Laura Ling and Euna Lee are being used as bargaining chips in another of Kim Jong Il's aggressive diplomatic forays.
Giving Credit Where Credit is Due: Kim Jong Il's Been an Effective NegotiatorAn aside: Although I do not approve of the policies and philosophy of Dear Leader's regime, I do have a sort of admiration for his negotiating abilities. With very few allies, and dealing with a terribly weak economy, Kim Jong Il has repeatedly forced other nations into more-or-less grudging support.
All Things Considered, I'd Rather Live With America's News Media: And the InternetNorth Korea isn't the only place where those in power are accustomed to a well-run, loyal, news media. I think one of the problems that Iran had recently with Roxana Saberi was that the American journalist asked questions. That may not be what journalists are expected to do in that Islamic republic.
Woodstock is History: Deal With ItI think that many of the deeply entrenched, traditional elements of American journalism haven't quite gotten over the passing of Woodstock, and cherish the feelings and attitudes of their 'hell, no, we won't go' days.
But I'd rather have that, than a press that routinely delivers reports on the excellence of the President's views and the debased loathsomeness displayed by enemies of the Union.
As for what I think is a deep-rooted distrust and fear of the institutions which maintain their freedom, I think that matters less now. I was born in the Truman administration, and have watched broadcast television networks grow into giants on America's cultural landscape, and fade into the background: supplanted by cable and the Internet.
It's Not Just ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS Any MoreWhen I grew up, news media, educators, publishers, and entertainment media were the major - and virtually the only - information gatekeepers in America. If they decided that the masses in America shouldn't know something, we didn't. Apart from a few specialists, or people whose lives were directly affected by the unwanted facts.
No conspiracies involved: that's just the way things worked. And, it worked pretty well. As long as the people running those institutions had differing views.
Somewhere between the sixties and eighties, I get the impression that the 'right' sort of people ended up running all four branches. With exceptions, of course.
Happily, around that time cable television was making serious inroads on broadcast television's virtual monopoly on what people watched. (I'm not ignoring radio - but America culture is very visually oriented, and pictures do seem to be worth a thousand words.)
Then, people started using the Internet.
Freedom's Messy - But Worth itIn my youth, some conservatives complained that there 'oughta be a law' against criticizing the government. I understand the feeling: but I know too much about places where criticizing the government is, in fact if not in theory, illegal.
I'd rather live in America.
Freedom is a messy, sometimes unpleasant, thing.
But if it's done right, people will speak their minds: even if the dean of the department doesn't agree; or if it's an embarrassment to a government agency or advocacy group.
Issues can be identified, and dealt with, if people are allowed to speak.
"Freedom of expression" on a regional, national or global level used to be limited to those persons whose wealth and/or position made it possible for them to relate their views to the masses.
With the information technology that's evolving today, that power to be heard is returning to the people. I think we're at the beginning of an exciting - and disturbing - period.
- "North Korea and the Kim Jong Dynasty: Not All Countries are the Same"
(June 9, 2009)
- "North Korea Sentences Journalists: No Surprises Here"
(June 7, 2009)
- The comments give insight, I think, into the world view of people who support North Korea, and others.
- "Tiananmen Square 20th Anniversary: A Losing Battle for Traditional Information Gatekeepers"
(June 3, 2009)
- "Tiananmen Square Commemoration in Hong Kong: No Tanks"
(June 5, 2009)
- "Tiananmen Square Commemoration in Hong Kong: No Tanks"
- "DC Gun Ban, Online Censorship, Individual Rights, and Power to the People"
(June 27, 2008)
- Or, type "gatekeeper" (no quotes) into this blog's search function - near the upper left corner
- "Union Jack Banned at Heathrow: Sensitivity Above and Beyond the Call of Reason"
(June 13, 2009)
- "Army Emergency Relief Guilty! Vet Advocates Angry! You Know What the American Military is Like!"
(February 23, 2009)
- "Abu Ghraib: Abuse and Sexual Humiliation by American Soldiers in the News Again"
(January 25, 2009)
- "America to Unilaterally Attack Somalia!"
(January 8, 2009)
- "Looting in the News: Rape, Pillage, and the America Way"
(November 24, 2008)
- "The New York Times, Insularity, and Assumptions"
(October 21, 2008)
- "Haditha, Iraq; My Lai, Vietnam: This Isn't the Good Old Days"
(July 13, 2008)
- "Japanese Court, Okinawa, Kenzaburo Oe: There's a Lesson Here"
(April 5, 2008)
- " 'The Army is Unraveling' - Just Like Vietnam!"
(March 19, 2008)
- "A Marine, A Puppy, and Serious Abuse: 'It Must be Real: I Saw it on YouTube!' "
(March 4, 2008)
- See particularly After Word: My Lai and Abu Ghraib, Perception and Reality, near the end of this post.
- "Congress Protects Alleged Terrorists Against CIA"
(October 12, 2007)
- "North Korea Says Journalists Admitted Crimes"
The New York Times (June 16, 2009)
- "N. Korea: U.S. journalists were creating 'smear campaign' "
CNN (June 16, 2009)
- "Reporters 'admit' N Korea entry"
BBC (June 16, 2009)
- "North Korea says jailed journalists 'bent on slander' "
Reuters (June 16, 2009)