BBC LIED TO STUDENTS TO MAKE NORTH KOREA DOCUMENTARY – Over the last couple of years the BBC has been criticised and openly berated by Government, the Press and the public. If it’s not trying to hide the indiscretions of its employees over the Jimmy Savile scandal it’s taking a left-wing approach over the death of Margaret Thatcher; and no matter how many times they appoint a new boss the problems are simply not being addressed.
The new chief, Lord Hall, has now been presented with evidence that a Panorama documentary on life inside North Korea used students from The London School of Economics (LSE) as little more as ‘human shields’ putting the lives of all ten students at serious risk.
The students were invited on an LSE organised trip to North Korea but later learned the trip was actually a cover for an undercover Panorama investigation into the segregated and secretive state.
The journalist involved in the whole charade was John Sweeney, an investigative journalist with a somewhat questionable past; regarding his journalistic investigating techniques. Sweeney insisted that the students had all fully agreed to entering North Korea but later admitted that he ‘withheld’ information due to the advice of the BBC risk assessors.
This willful lack of regard for student safety could have led to dire consequences for the student if the investigative documentary had been discovered by North Korean officials. If they had been caught the consequences would have almost certainly involved their arrest, detention and worse interrogation.
Due to the withholding of information the LSE, students and parents feel that the BBC knowingly and willfully put lives at risk and called for the documentary to be cancelled before it is due to be aired tonight.
According to parents some of the students, as young as 18 years old, have received threatening letters from North Korean authorities after they found out about the documentary once the BBC and students had left the country. A number of parents have written to Lord Hall for a full explanation as to why students were misled in order to create subterfuge that would allow John Sweeney and his investigative team into the communist state.
“I am outraged that in this case the BBC, without obtaining “informed consent”… deceived, used and endangered these students to obtain a story from North Korea.” One parents letter comment to Lord Hall
I for one wouldn’t want to be in Lord Hall’s shoes; as he has effectively taken over a wasp’s nest that has been seriously disturbed.
This gun-ho attitude of ‘do whatever it takes to get a story’ or ‘hide the truth’ is once again bringing the BBC into dispute that will only damage its image further. There have been called from some groups to curb the press through regulatory controls due to questionable integrity of the media.
While many feel that regulatory controls on the Press would only go towards creating a ‘state controlled media’ there are those who feel the Press ought to be shackled and these types of incidences only fuel their argument.
The Press must remain free but it also has the responsibility to report the news untarnished and in an open and honest way that allows the public access to information that has been obtained lawfully and with a high degree of morals.
While it must be accepted that we all make mistakes it must never be accepted that journalists will openly and knowingly put other people’s lives at risk just to get a story. Many hundreds of journalists, each day, put their own lives at risk in order to bring us the news; however they do so under full knowledge of the risks involved; something the BBC obviously felt was important when they put these students’ lives at risk without their consent.