x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

BBC's tactics in sending undercover journalists to North Korea denounced

The London School of Economics has denounced the BBC for using a student-organised trip to North Korea as cover for a reporting trip to the secretive communist country.

LONDON // The London School of Economics denounced the BBC for using a student-organised trip to North Korea as "cover" for a reporting trip to the secretive communist country.

The LSE said in a statement the BBC put students at risk by having at least one of a team of three journalists pretend to be affiliated with the university to gather material for a TV programme set to be broadcast today.

The university says it has tried and failed to persuade the BBC not to air the programme. LSE blamed the BBC for not being forthcoming about its reporting plans in North Korea, where foreign reporting crews usually have to operate under strict supervision.

The BBC's John Sweeney, who LSE officials say posed as a post-graduate LSE student, said yesterday it was "entirely wrong" for the university to try to prevent the broadcast from going forward.

LSE student union general secretary Alex Peters-Day said the students were lied to and that at least one of the students on the trip was not told in advance of the journalists' participation.

"We don't know what could have happened to those students and, truthfully, neither does the BBC. It's absolutely disgraceful that he [Sweeney] put students in that position," she said.

BBC News Head of News Programs Ceri Thomas said the students were given the information needed to give informed consent to the increased risk of travelling with journalists who did not have authorisation to work in North Korea.

He said, however, that the students were told roughly a month before the trip that there would be "a journalist" travelling with them but were later told, once they were already en route to North Korea, that there would be three journalists who would be conducting undercover filming for TV.