Update: On May 20, the BBC decided to repost the previously removed article on their website, stating that they had taken it down, “in the interests of our staff while they were in North Korea”. It had been revealed on the same day, that the BBC removed the article in question in an agreement with North Korean authorities.
A report filed from Pyongyang by the recently expelled journalist Rupert Wingfield-Hayes appears to have been removed from the BBC’s website.
The link to the report titled “North Korea: Searching for self-reliance and ‘real people’ in Pyongyang,” was previously active on May 9 but currently shows a 404-Error saying the article cannot be found. Several other reports filed by Hayes from Pyongyang remain active.
While the reasons for the piece’s removal are unknown, the BBC is refusing to comment.
NK News inquired with the BBC to see when and why the link was taken down but the BBC said that it will not be commenting on the issue.
Hayes, Maria Byrne and cameraman Matthew Goddard were all detained on Friday as they attempted to leave North Korea, the BBC reports.
Hayes was questioned for eight hours and made to sign a statement and the group has subsequently arrived safely in Beijing.
“We are very disappointed that our reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and his team have been deported from North Korea after the government took offense at material he had filed,” a BBC spokesman said.
“Four BBC staff, who were invited to cover the Workers Party Congress, remain in North Korea and we expect them to be allowed to continue their reporting.”
Hayes and his colleagues were in Pyongyang accompanying a group of three Nobel laureates and a member of the Liechtenstein royal family on a delegation to North Korea, organized by the International Peace Foundation (IPF).
The laureates – Professor Finn Kydland of Norway, Sir Richard Roberts of the UK and Professor Aaron Ciechanover from Israel – along with Prince Alfred toured various facilities in the country including Kim Il Sung University and a children’s hospital.
Hayes was criticized by his North Korean minders for what they deemed inappropriate reporting.
“So now our minders are rather upset with us because we tried to do a piece to camera in front of the statue of Kim Il Sung here and they clearly felt that we said stuff that was not respectful to the Great Leader and now we are in trouble,” Hayes had said in a video report from Pyongyang.
The BBC team were also instructed to delete the footage in question or they would not be allowed to leave the campus of Kim Il Sung University, where the incident took place.
The since-removed article by Hayes also contained criticisms of North Korea and its leader that would likely be deemed inappropriate by North Korean standards.
This included statements such as “the government can barely feed its own people” and “What exactly he’s done to deserve the title Marshal is hard to say” when referring to Kim Jong Un. “On state TV the young ruler seems to spend a lot of time sitting in a large chair watching artillery firing at mountainsides,” he added.
When explaining the North Korean ideology of Juche in the piece, Hayes reported: “It roughly translates as ‘self-reliance’ – the idea that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea doesn’t need help from other countries, that it can develop into a modern nation by itself.”
“Except, of course, it can’t,” he added.
A North Korean government spokesperson had previously spoken to other foreign media representatives gathered in Pyongyang for the Congress, confirming Hayes expulsion and the reasons why.
“We have decided to expel the Tokyo BBC correspondent Rupert Wingfield-Hayes from the territory of the DPRK and we are going to never admit him again into the country,” the spokesperson said.
“They (the reports) were not very just in terms of respecting the local custom, the system in the DPRK and even made distorted facts and realities about the situation and they were speaking very ill of the system and the leadership of the country,” he added.
North Korea is consistently rated among the worst in terms of press freedom in the world, with Freedom House listing the country as last in the rankings in their latest annual report. Reporters Without Borders consistently ranks it second from last in its annual reports, behind only Eritrea.
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