Monday, June 01, 2009

In the sudden death financial rounds the journalism industry has been unwillingly entered in, it's been easy to forget that there are still journalists in the world who face losing more than their 401(k)s.

But we don't have far to lo0k to remind ourselves that journalists risk more than investments.

For one, this week a trial begins in North Korea for two journalists seized three months ago.

The AP reports that Laura Ling and Euna Lee, both Americans working for Al Gore's Current TV venture, face potential sentences in North Korea's labor camps, for reporting on women and children who were fleeing to China as refugees.

Today is also the birthday of an Egyptian poet whose most famous work shunted his son into exile, despite attempts to intervene by the organization Reporters without Borders. Naguib Surur wrote a stream-of-consciousness piece full of sexual imagery which he never attempted to publish, as it would never have made it past Egypt's censorship laws. Instead, the work circulated via audio cassette. In 2000, almost a quarter century after his young death, Surur's son posted the poem on a U.S. based Web site. The son ended up sentenced to a year in prison, and fled to Russia, where he has dual citizenship. He remains in exile.

Reporters without Borders was founded in France. Unsurprisingly, given the journalistic tradition in France, it started with an entirely different purpose than it ended up with - due to disagreements among its founders. This just in: no one shocked. Anyway, the organization states that it draws its mission from Article 19 of the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights, which states that all peoples have "the right to freedom of opinion and expression" as well as to "seek, receive and impart" information and ideas "regardless of frontiers."

So here is my question for you: what questions does this prompt for you?

Do you feel journalists have a sacred mission, making the risk worth it? If so, to what extent does that apply to the entire journalistic community - not just those in the line of fire?

Or does your mind turn to the Internet, and its implications for freedom - and obfuscation - of information?

What about the First Amendment freaks out there? Do we face censorship now, and from what source?

What is your definition of censorship, and what is your ethical stance?

Is journalism always a moral or ethical endeavor - or should it be, at least - or is it sometimes just a job?

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