Lee-Ling release and reporting’s challenge

By David Bulla

The release of American journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee Tuesday (Aug. 4) from their 12-year prison sentence for spying  in North Korea reminds us of how perilous reporting can be.

Indeed, even in our country, the First Amendment has no words protecting reporting. Rather, the 45 words in the First Amendment only include a protection of publishing.

American journalists have to work hard to expand press freedom to include the right to gather information.

In the Civil War, journalists often had to prove themselves to commanders in the field to show they were not acting as spies. William T. Sherman saw almost all reporters in terms of espionage and worked to have them removed from his camp. Sherman had Thomas Knox of the New York Herald tried for spying by a military commission, but he was found not guilty.

The reporter, especially in wartime, is often far from the home office and does not have a level of immediate support necessary for difficult circumstances. Reporting effectively often demands his/her imagination and guile to bypass those who would impede him/her.

And the rights and privileges that American journalists have carved out for themselves in 218 years have been hard earned. In places where journalists have not fought for the free flow of information, the right is not a given.

Ling and Lee now know this firsthand.

They also now know the enormous difference of working in a nation that does not have a protective law like the First Amendment.

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