Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Nightmare for 2 journalists jailed 12 years for doing their job ✍

Laura Ling and Euna Lee

After Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, who was recently detained for three months in Iran, it is now Laura Ling and Euna Lee who are jailed, this time in North Korea, convicted of a grave crime against the nation, for illegally crossing into North Korea, and sentenced to 12 years in labor prison. These two American (Chinese and Korean origin) television journalists Ling, 32, and Lee, 36, were arrested March 17 along the China-North Korean border after top officials in Pyongyang said they had encroached on North Korean soil while reporting a story on human trafficking by Kim Jong Il's regime.

After their arrest, Ling and Lee were initially accused of "hostile activities". The two journalists, who work for the California-based web television station Current TV, had approached the border from inside China in order to cover the trafficking of North Korean women across the border, a dangerous border as one can testify with heavily armed armed DPRK soldiers, "including Dragunov Russian rifles equipped snipers", according to reporters from Tokyo.

The sentence to 12 years of hard labor increased mounting tensions between the foreign community and the reclusive Asian state. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were sentenced by the top Central Court in Pyongyang as U.S. officials demanded the release of the two women.

The state-run Korean Central News Agency reported that the court "sentenced each of them to 12 years of reform through labor" but gave no further details and because the pair were tried by the nation's highest court, we are told that there can be no appeal. Ling's sister, Lisa Ling, said: "I will say with absolute certainty that, when they left US soil, they never intended to cross the border into North Korea. If at any point they did, we are truly sorry and we know the girls are too."

Their guide is being held by the Chinese authorities.

Reporters Without Borders
Reporters Without Borders is appalled by the sentences of 12 years of "reform through labour" which a North Korean court passed today on American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee after convicting them in a sham trial of an unspecified "grave crime" and illegally entering the country.

"These 12-year sentences are a terrible shock for all those who have repeatedly insisted on their innocence," Reporters Without Borders said. "The sentences are much more severe than anything we had imagined. The authorities in Pyongyang must urgently reverse this decision and allow Ling and Lee to rejoin their families."

The sentences were clearly designed to scare journalists trying to do investigative reporting in the border area between China and North Korea, which is ranked as Asia's worst country in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index. To access Reporters sans Frontieres comments click here http://tinyurl.com/nq5kf3

Crossing a border without being invited is a natural methodology act for investigative journalists. I did it several times especially in S.E. Asia (Cambodia, Laos, Burma). It is at such dangerous price that facts and truth can be discovered by journalists from secretive or war states where brutality is a method to rule, oppress, jail and murder their people turned preys.

Quotes: "Human rights groups, basing their estimates on defector testimonies, believe that about 200,000 prisoners are in North Koreas gulag system. Many are family members imprisoned for the crimes of their relatives, especially when the crimes are political." (The W. Times)

Current TV founder is former USA Vice President Al Gore. At this point, commentators speculate it is unlikely the two will serve time in a gulag. Instead Euna Lee and Laura Ling were expected to become negotiating pawns as the North tests the Obama administration by steadily escalating tensions with the United States.

North Korea just said it banned vessels from traveling in a designated area off its northeast shore between Wednesday and June 30, raising speculation that another rocket missile is to be launched adding to the destabilization of North East Asia.

☞ The interesting thing I see here is about the never ending DPRK own contradictions: I know of some foreign journalists and photographs who have been arrested in the past in North Korea while crossing the PRC - DPRK border, and were, later on, freed with apology and, even more amazing, were invited by North Korean officials to stay in the country for their reports. No arrest and no jail then at that time. So, one question: Were the two reporters blackmailed, manipulated or kidnaped after treacherous plan? And what about the allegations that there were 4 journalists actually trying to report on the border. Where are the two others?

Kidnapping is a trend in secretive North Korea. In 2002, Pyongyang admitted that it had systematically kidnapped Japanese citizens in the 1970s and '80s, using them to train its spies, who were then filtered back into Japan. It kidnapped hundreds of South Koreans over the years.

Quotes: "But it's not always some twisted policy goal that drives Pyongyang to kidnapping; Kim has also resorted to abduction to satisfy his personal whims. The North Korean dictator has long had a passion for movies, but he evidently believed North Korea's cinema wasn't up to his standards. In the late '70s, when his father Kim Il Sung was running the country, Kim apparently ordered the abduction of Shin Sang-ok, then perhaps the most famous film producer in the South, and his wife, Choi Eun-hee, a famous actress. Shin was imprisoned for four years, then forced to make a socialist-friendly version of Godzilla. He and his wife eventually escaped during a business trip to Vienna in 1986. Shin died in 2006 at age 80." (Time magazine)

Quotes from agencies, Time, W Times, RSF, Diary.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Yes, We Ca(e)n, in Normandy !

President Nicolas Sarkozy, Barack Obama, the Prince of Wales, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper attend a memorial service June 6th, 2009 at the American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, Normandy, west of France.

7.000 participants and VIPs seat facing the Memorial, in half-circle, composed of a colonnade and a large bronze statue of 7 meters in its center. It symbolizes the Spirit of American youth s' raising from the Flood.

France First Lady, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy is greeted by Caen citizens in front of the Hôtel de la Préfecture de Normandie. -Private portraits collection-

On 6th June 1944, from dawn to dusk, the Allied liberation of Western Europe began with the D-Day landings that brought Allies troops on five beachheads in Normandy. The majority of troops who landed on the D-Day beaches were from the United Kingdom, Canada and the US. However, troops from many other countries participated in D-Day and the Battle of Normandy, in all the different armed services: Australia, Belgium, Czechoslovakia, France, Greece, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway and Poland. Following the invasion, the whole of northern France was liberated from the Nazis within three months. Caen and Normandy paid a heavy price for the bombing that accompanied this last chapters of World War II, in loosing over 21.000 souls.

"Operation Overlord", http://tinyurl.com/lagdp7 the most complex assault ever attempted, since the invasion of England by the Duke of Normandy William the Conqueror, has been memorialized in books and movies, including accounts of the "greatest generation" in popular films, like "The Longest Day" http://tinyurl.com/q6pnyb "Band of Brothers" and "Saving Private Ryan," as well as in blowout 50th and 60th anniversary celebrations, local officials have feared that the exploits of the men might fade. To take Caen, the Allies bombed the city of Caen with terrific force, killing several thousand of French residents, the strongest price to re-gain liberty.

"Yes, We Caen!"
The US president and the First lady Barack and Michelle Obama and the First Couple of France Nicolas and Carla Bruni-Sarkozy walked the streets of CAEN, Normandy, where a good portion of the history of western civilization was formed more than 1,000 years ago. "Yes, We Caen!" is a common witted sentence from the Caennais citizens and, I hear, "a patented phrase of Alexia de St. John's, a young French woman originally from Martinique who has now lived in Paris for many years. St John's has allowed the city of Caen to use her phrase this year as a token of good will to the city as well as a show of her support for Obama's visit."

On the eve of France's participation in the European Parliament election, US President Obama joined French President Nicolas Sarkozy in Caen and gave a speech at the American War Cemetery at nearby Colleville-sur-Mer. (A French land concession to the USA after WWII)

"Sixty-five years ago, June 6th 1944, the liberating drama of D-Day shook Nazi occupied ravaged France. Surviving veterans were showing family members the paths their lives as soldiers took. On the 65th anniversary of the Allied invasion of Normandy to free Europe from the Nazis, President Barack Obama saluted the elderly veterans who once stormed the beaches and achieved an "improbable victory" in World War II."

Calls for cooperation instead of unilateralism, and diplomacy whenever it is possible, ran through the remarks at the Normandy American Cemetery and Memorial by Obama, French President Nicholas Sarkozy, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

On the Normandie coastal area, at the Colleville-sur-Mer American cemetery, designed by Markley Stevenson, overlooking Omaha Beach, before the graves of 9,387 soldiers, President Obama told thousands of veterans and family members that "we live in a world of competing beliefs and claims about what is true," and "it is rare for a struggle to emerge that speaks to something universal about humanity. But all know that this war was essential."

"The ideal of the United Nations was born from the struggle of the free peoples against Nazism," Sarkozy said in a serene and strong speech, adding that their collective duty "is to give life to that ideal." Noting that Obama's grandfather and a great uncle had served in World War II, president Sarkozy told the visiting president: "You are therefore twice over, by the office you hold and by the blood which flows through your veins, the symbol of the America that we love."

"Obama also spoke of the need to apply the lessons of the past to the future. As we face down the hardships and struggles of our time," he said, "and arrive at that hour for which we were born, we cannot help but draw strength from those moments in history when the best among us were somehow able to swallow their fears and secure a beachhead on an unforgiving shore." Moments later, canons fired a 21-gun salute, and the French Air Force flew 12 jets in three tight formations over the graves of 9,000 Americans whose lives are memorialized above the sands of Omaha Beach. A military band played Taps as four of the worlds leaders stood on in silence."

Normandy is a sweet bucolic region 220 kilometers north-west of Paris where, today, golden wheat fields brush the wind and rural families quietly parade. It is where, every weekend, the roads are lined with the cars of Parisians, who are making their way to country homes, Rouen, Caen, Mont-Saint-Michel, Giverny, Honfleur Deauville - Trouville, Cabourg, Pont-L'Eveque, Lisieux, not to mention a fair share of Americans, Canadians and British who have chosen to make Normandy their own home.

Quotes from Google news, Time, Miami Herald, Huffington, Epa, agencies, JL ©

To follow the Normandy Campaign from D-Day through the Liberation of Paris, access this interactive program and click here http://www.abmc.gov/home.php