Three BBC journalists joined a student group on a visit to North Korea without disclosing their intention of filming the secretive state for ‘Panorama’ which is a current affairs show.
The university, London School of Economics, claimed that BBC lied to the students and put them in danger, using them as ‘human shields’. North Korea doesn’t allow foreigners to propagate the country’s information (photos, videos etc) without permission. In fact, given the present crisis surrounding the Korean peninsula, it is almost forbidden by North Korea to transmit any kind of details about the country by foreigners.
LSE criticized the broadcasting corporation to jeopardize the security of the students in order to film their undercover documentary. The university’s chairman asked BBC not to air the documentary but the channel is determined to continue with the Panorama documentary.
BBC Radio 4 Today posted on Twitter:
"We explained to them [the students at LSE] clearly... it wasn't shambolic," says Ceri Thomas, BBC head of news programmes— BBC Radio 4 Today (@BBCr4today) April 15, 2013
Ceri Thomas, the head of BBC News programs said in a statement that the students were notified of the possible dangers of having a journalist onboard. They were told that they would be accompanied by one journalist but BBC sent three instead.
BBC claimed that it was ‘vital’ to get inside North Korea and to know what exactly is going inside the mysterious country, especially now, when the nuclear threats have gone out of control.
The LSE on the other hand argued that if the North Korean authorities had found out about the undercover documentary plans, the students would have faced a lot of trouble there. They could have been detained or imprisoned.
The Telegraph reported that the incident could also affect future academic visits to North Korea and that LSE students are receiving ‘threatening letters’ from Kim Jong-Un government.
A debate has generated after the news was broken. People are criticizing BBC for not clarifying their intentions to the students while the channel is determined to air the documentary despite the accusations. If the LSE student union is right when it says that they were misled, then BBC surely was wrong to do so. Investigative journalism indeed requires secrecy but certainly not deception.