Free the press

Euna Lee and Laura Ling, the two American journalists who had been detained by North Korea for 140 days, are finally home.

Meanwhile, another freelance journalist, Shane Bauer, and two of his companions were detained last week in Iran. Shane, his girlfriend, and Joshua Fattal say they were hiking. Iran says they’re spies. Meanwhile, no one seems to know where they’re being held, or how to secure their release.

Journalists have long been targets for kidnapping, beatings and arrest, but these cases have a new twist: At the time of their arrest, these individuals were independent journalists.

Lee and Ling were lucky on two counts: Bill Clinton interceded on their behalf, and North Korea pardoned them. Shane and his friends may not fare so well.

Sadly, this type of story may become more common. As newspapers continue to fade, a new breed of independent journalist is emerging. But when things go wrong, who will stand up for them? If they’re not affiliated with a single company—or sometimes any one country—who will advocate for their release?

In war, we have the Geneva Convention to dictate the appropriate treatment of prisoners. Perhaps the international community should consider a similar code for its treatment of journalists.

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