This is the unsettling footage that got the BBC banned from North Korea

Posted by
Chris Sayer

All of a sudden, the rousing speech given by Wolf Hall's director Peter Kosminsky at last week's BAFTAs seems even more on the money.

"Most people would agree that the BBC’s main job is to speak truth to power – to report to the British public without fear or favour, no matter how unpalatable that might be to those in government," he said from the stage's podium after receiving an award last weekend. "It’s a public broadcaster – independent of government – not a state broadcaster, where the people who make the editorial decisions are appointed by the government – like they do in those bastions of democracy: Russia or North Korea."

The reason for this spooky timely resonance? This news story from North Korea by BBC journalist Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, which caused the reporter to get expelled from the country for "distorting the facts". Or, simply not filming what he was ordered to film.

Wingfield-Hayes and his team had travelled to North Korea "ahead of the Workers' Party Congress, accompanying a delegation of Nobel prize laureates conducting a research trip," the BBC said. "The North Korean leadership was displeased with their reports highlighting aspects of life in the capital. At a news conference on Monday, a North Korean government spokesperson said Wingfield-Hayes and his colleagues had been 'speaking very ill of the system'."

As the BBC team were preparing to leave the country, Wingfield-Hayes was detained by officials, questions for eight hours, and asked to sign statement.

“When he reached the airport on Friday, he was separated from the rest of his team, prevented from boarding that flight, taken to a hotel and interrogated by the security bureau here in Pyongyang before being made to sign a statement and then released, eventually allowed to rejoin us here in this hotel,” another BBC correspondent in Pyongyang, John Sudworth, said in a broadcast. 

If anything's got us appreciating the independence of the BBC a little more todaythis is it. 


Share this article


Chris Sayer

Chris Sayer is a freelance journalist and editor based in London. Chris has interviewed some of the biggest names in entertainment and travelled the world doing an all manner of adventures for lots of brilliant magazines. He writes for Shortlist about booze but would probably prefer we let him write about fishing instead. Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisSayer00

Other people read

More from News

More from Chris Sayer