Two American journalists for Current TV, the cable/web network, were scheduled to go on trial in North Korea today. Laura Ling and Euna Lee were on a reporting assignment about North Korean refugees in China when they were detained March 17. Though it’s not clear if they entered North Korea, they were arrested for illegal entry and “hostile” acts and could face years of labor camps if convicted.
Vigils for the two were held around the country last night and thousands are expressing their support on Facebook. Laura Ling’s sister Lisa, a prominent TV journalist herself, has appeared all over the media this week saying the only way her sister may be released is if the U.S. government and the North Korean government talk. Analysts say Ling and Lee are being used as “bargaining chips” for North Korea to engage in dialogue about its nuclear program with the U.S.
San Francisco-based Current itself has not commented Ling and Lee’s arrest and trial, and seems to be deleting related coverage on its own site. We asked the company for comment on the recent developments and it declined again. It’s exactly the kind of topic the network would normally cover, so many speculate the company feels — or has been advised that — speaking out could only hurt the two journalists’ prospects.