London School of Economics’ Student Union has condemned the BBC’s actions saying students were lied to when three journalists accompanied 10 students who were ‘used as a human shield’ to covertly film a Panorama documentary in North Korea.
The BBC responded by saying that the students ‘had been properly warned ahead of the trip’. Ceri Thomas, Head of News Programmes, said the only people deceived were the North Korean Government.
Reported by BBC News, Thomas said: “There were 10 students [on the trip]. We told them that there would be journalists and if they were discovered it could mean detention and arrest.”
The LSE Student Union said that ‘students had not been told of the undercover team filming a high-profile documentary’. Nicola Dandridge, chief executive for Universities UK, told ITV news: “Not only have they put students’ safety at risk, but it may also have damaged our [the UK’s] universities’ reputations overseas.”
The notoriously secretive North Korean state at the heart of the current nuclear crisis rarely allows entry to the country from outsiders, particularly journalists – and the recording of video is punishable by prison.
Whilst visiting for tourism purposes, people are taken on a guided tour and are not allowed to wander from the designated areas and tour guides who oversee their every move. Camera equipment is allowed, however there are heavy restrictions of the authorized specifications and use.
Shane Smith, founder of the documentary company VICE, secretly recorded his own documentary in 2011 entitled “Inside North Korea”. In the film he says: “It’s so surreal. Nothing ‘normal’ happens in this country, ever.”
“Sometimes I imagine if someone comes frozen in ice and you have to explain to them what an airplane or a supermarket is – this is as close as you get to that. This is 1950’s Soviet Russia, they see me as the Yankee imperialist aggressor, and I see them as the land that time forgot.”
The BBC has stated they will not delay the broadcast of the Panorama show on BBC One at 8:30pm on April 15, despite opposition calling for a full apology.