Asian women journalists, beware

Is there really so many Asian American women as journalists that three of them are being held in hostile countries for espionage? It is disturbing to me that three women of Asian descent — including Roxana Saberi, who is half Japanese and half Iranian — are being held in hostile countries on trumped up charges. Is Hillary Clinton the only U.S. official who will speak up for them?

The three of them have been on my heart lately. I can’t imagine the fear they are feeling, the worry their families are experiencing. I can only imagine the admonishment their moms will give them when, God willing, they return, especially since I’m sure all three of them were urged to go into safer professions like medicine, law or some sort of computer or engineering work instead.

The headline of this post was nearly, “President Bush doesn’t care about Asian women.” It would have of course been a play on Kanye West’s proclamation following Hurricane Katrina. It may be that the plight of three Asian women can no way be compared to the chaos and third-world conditions the people of New Orleans were plunged into as Hurricane Katrina ravaged the city.

These women did not need to be in Iran, in Saberi’s case, or in North Korea, in Euna Lee and Laura Ling’s case. They were there in search of truth, hopefully to find something that would be of comfort to the people of those countries — information and sights that those countries obviously did not want broadcast to the world. New Orleans is a lot closer than Iran or North Korea. And these women are just journalists, a title often said with a sneer. And, to speak out willy nilly as Kanye West did, would definitely be more politically dangerous.

But are they really less important that we can’t at least say more in their defense?

My larger concern is that our president, the famously eloquent President Obama, hasn’t said much in defense of Saberi, other than he’s confident she was not engaging in any sort of espionage. Just “confident?” Just “deeply concerned?” Couldn’t he have used any stronger language? Not only that, his statement were made months months after she was initially arrested — for buying alcohol or working without press credentials or espionage, depending on who you are reading or believing. Maybe we should get some pirates involved to get some action on Saberi’s situation.

And don’t get me started on what President Obama has said in defense of Laura Ling and Euna Lee. Don’t get me started because I can’t find what, if anything, he said. If you know, really, truly, let me know. I want to know.

What is most shameful of all is how little coverage these three women are getting from their colleagues. Is it because covering these three women reporters would make the president look bad? At least one article I found suggested that. Is it because they don’t fit the popular stereotype of a quiet, submissive, exotic Asian woman that prevails in the media? Is it because there’s no pirates involved? Is it because no one wants to offend the trigger-happy North Koreans?

I don’t know. But I do know that there’s no surer way of killing journalism as we know it than to be silent in its defense and its practicioners.