PYONGYANG – A BBC journalist called Rupert Wingfield-Hayes has been expelled from North Korea over what officials in the country termed negative portrayal of the system and its leadership. The journalist was on Friday detained for questioning, which culminated in his ban from the country. The incident occurred as North Korea’s Workers’ Party holds its seventh congress.
Insulting the dignity of the country
Although North Korea had allowed in over 100 foreign journalists to cover its Workers’ Party congress, happening 36 years after the last one, Wingfield-Hayes had landed in the country earlier for a different event. Wingfield-Hayes and his reporting crew that included a producer and a cameraman were in North Korea to cover a trip of Nobel laureates. However, Pyongyang found fault with their reporting about the country, claiming that it had insulted the dignity of the totalitarian regime and its leader Kim Jon-un. The crew was detained on the day they were scheduled to leave the country.
While Wingfield-Hayes has been allowed to leave the country, it was not until he wrote an apology, according to O Ryong Il, North Korea’s secretary-general of the National Peace Committee. Wingfield-Hayes will never gain access to the country again, the official added.
Pyongyang claimed that Wingfield-Hayes distorted facts in his reports and ended up speaking ill of the North Korean regime and its leader. The expulsion of the BBC journalists is interpreted as North Korea’s continued cruel stance against media freedom.
Other BBC journalists remain
Although Wingfield-Hayes and his team have been expelled from North Korea, their colleagues who went specifically to cover the historic Workers’ Party congress remain in the country. Pyongyang invited more than 100 journalists from across the world to cover the seventh Workers’ Party congress, which is taking place for the first time since 1980, before North Korea’s current leader Jong-un was born.
However, those foreign journalists are not allowed to cover the congress directly. They rely on North Korea’s state-run media to learn what transpired at the congress. During his address to the 3,400 delegate at the Workers Party congress, Jong-un reiterated his country’s commitment to development of nuclear weapons.