For 115 days, journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee have faced hard labor and all but silence from the outside world as detainees in a North Korean Prison Camp.
On March 17, while on assignment for Current TV, the two journalists broke North Korean law by entering the country from China. They have expressed regret for their actions in sporadic phone calls to loved ones back home in the United States. Ling and Lee want to be pardoned and allowed to return home.
Today, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called for amnesty for the two reporters. Yesterday, vigils for Ling and Lee were held across the United States, and in foreign cities such as Paris.
In the Valley, Paula Rangel, with help from Asian American Journalists Association members Mindy Lee and Jeffrey Ong, gathered a few dozen people, including members of the Society of Professional Journalists, for a vigil for the two journalists at Changing Hands Bookstore in Tempe.
"What we're here tonight to do is join together and call for the immediate release and safe return of journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee, who are now imprisoned in a North Korean Prison Camp for 12 years of hard labor," said AAJA's Phoenix Chapter President Jeffrey Ong.
"This [vigil] is a one-day thing, but this is an ongoing situation, so don't forget these girls." Said AAJA Community Outreach Chair Mindy Lee.
Participants wore yellow ribbons and wrote encouraging messages on a massive banner.
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Speakers for the vigil included local poet and freelance writer Roberta Burnett, Society of Professional Journalists Past President Mark Scarp, and Max Jones, a young journalist who has attended vigils for Ling and Lee across the country and reports about their plight on Weekend News Today.
Though amnesty for Laura Ling and Euna Lee was the primary focus, Mark Scarp used the vigil to bring awareness to the struggle foreign journalists face battling government censorship.
"North Korea, which for more than half a century has existed in isolation and totalitarianism, is trying to solidify it's aging and increasing untenable internal power structure through a variety of acts of aggression and oppression," he said. "They never learn."