If you haven't seen the reports of the release of US journalists Laura Ling and Euna Lee from prison in North Korea, you've probably been living under a rock.
Thanks to former President Bill Clinton, these two courageous young women have returned home to their families. The press conference was incredibly touching and emotional.
I couldn't imagine being in their shoes. The mere fact of their arrest is proof positive of how hostile the North Korean regime is to freedom of the press, a principal held dear by so much of the democratic world.
Another case that has made the press lately is that of Roxana Saberi, the Iranian-American journalist who was arrested in Iran, charged with espionage and sentenced to a eight-year prison term. An appeals court later reduced the charge to possessing classified information, a charge she denied, and reduced her eight-year prison sentence to a two-year suspended sentence and she was released in May 2009.
As horrifying as it must have been for these journalists, these stories had happy endings. Too often, however, that is not the case.
Since the very first World Press Freedom Day was celebrated in 1991, 692 journalists worldwide have been killed. Not to mention the hundreds more each year who face intimidation, censorship, and arbitrary arrest. Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press co-founders California Congressman Adam Schiff (Dem.) and Indiana Congressman Mike Pence (Rep.) consider these journalists "guilty of nothing more than a passion for truth and a tenacious belief that a free society depends on an informed citizenry."
How true those words are. As writers, we at Fictionistas are passionate believers in the freedom of the press. And though I can't express how happy I am that these oppressive regimes have released these journalists, I won't be satisfied until such oppression is eradicated from this earth.
So welcome home, Laura and Euna and keep up your good work. But my thoughts and prayers are with your colleagues worldwide who continue to be intimidated. Ensuring the vitality of a free and independent press is more important than ever.