Associated Press Pyongyang “bureau” silenced on top world story from North Korea

The Associated Press should close it’s “bureau” in North Korea as an embarrassment to the principles of the Free Press

By Nate Thayer

November 11, 2014

It did not go unnoticed that the Associated Press had exactly no reporting today from its Pyongyang “bureau” on the release of two American prisoners held in North Korea, despite the Associated Press having a so-called news ‘bureau’ they opened up in Pyongyang with considerable pomp after signing a deal with the government devil ranked the most egregious violator of press freedoms on earth every year for the last decade, save for coming in second once to Eritrea.

The AP opened up a “news bureau” in January 2012 , which is located within the confines of the state news organ–the Korean Central News Agency–an arm of the Ministry of Agitation and Propaganda.

The AP Pyongyang bureau has not broken a single spot news story out of the several dozen that have dominated world headlines in the two years since–including today’s story of the release of two American prisoners after a visit by the highest ranking U.S. government official to visit North Korea this century.

This story was reported out of Washington, Seoul, Beijing, Tokyo and elsewhere by the world press, and the AP stories had no input whatsoever from their Pyongyang “bureau”.

I am sure the AP journalists are trying their best, but the dirty little secret is that the AP experiment to bring the Free Press to North Korea has gone further than being an abject failure; it is an impotent propaganda tool of the North Korean regime soiling the name and reputation of the Free Press.

The North Koreans hand-picked the North Korean “journalists”–widely known as being trained by their intelligence services–reporting back to and taking orders from their government bosses and specifically ordered preemptively on what they can and cannot report on–who are represented as the AP “journalists”. AP headquarters has refused to release the terms of their written agreement with Pyongyang to establish the bureau.

Today’s story by the AP was bylined Ken Dilanian and Mathew Pennington based in Washington with additional reporting from AP Diplomatic Writer Matthew Lee (also in Washington), White House Correspondent Julie Pace (also based in Washington), Associated Press writer Nedra Pickler (also in Washington), AP National Security Writer Lara Jakes (in Muscat, Oman), and AP writer John Seewer (in Toledo, Ohio). There was no contribution from the AP Pyongyang bureau on what was the top news story in the world which took place in Pyongyang.

All are excellent journalists, but none are in Korea. Not a word was reported from Pyongyang.

In any other country on the planet, it would be unheard of to report a story that emanates from that country with no input from the bureau that is opened there.

This is not the first time: The explosions of nuclear weapons tests; ballistic missile firings; several executions of regime leaders who fell out of favour; military attacks on neighboring countries; launches of internationally banned satellites; detailed reporting of despicable human rights policies; and numerous other stories have all been first reported by news agencies outside of North Korea.

The AP’s primary competitor, Reuters, has consistently scooped the AP on virtually every major news story regarding North Korea since the AP opened its exclusive bureau in January 2012–often with considerably more substance, independent credible sources, and context.

If the Associated Press wants to contribute to more robust reporting on North Korea, and defend the fundamental principles of a free press, it should admit its experiment is an abject failure, has been degraded to a transparent tool for propaganda by the regime in Pyongyang, is an embarrassment to the good name of the AP, and shut the bureau down.

The AP should demand that their reporting on North Korea meets minimal standards of ability to operate, as it does in every other country in the world, without the jackboot of state censorship and repression on its neck preventing them from offering anything substantive to inform free people outside of North Korea what is the state of affairs among the least free people in the world.

Until they do, the AP’s reporting on the country not only undermines its own credibility, but that of the world’s free press.


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