A BBC reporter, a producer and a cameraman have been detained in North Korea and are being expelled from the country, the BBC has said.
Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, producer Maria Byrne and cameraman Matthew Goddard were detained on Friday as they were about to leave the reclusive communist state.
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- November 24, 2021
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Wingfield-Hayes was questioned for eight hours and made to sign a statement by North Korean officials, the corporation said.
The team has now been taken to the airport.
All three were in Pyongyang ahead of the Workers Party Congress. They were accompanying a delegation of Nobel prize laureates on a research trip.
Another BBC journalist, Stephen Evans, the Seoul correspondent, is still in Pyongyang.
He said the North Korean leadership was displeased with their reports.
Evans said Wingfield-Hayes was singled out over some of his reports for TV and online.
Speaking live to Radio 4’s Today programme he said: “They were, as I understand, at the airport waiting to get on a flight.
“Just as they were about to board the flight, Rupert was held back.
“He was then taken to a hotel, a separate hotel to where we were and interrogated for eight hours.”
An interrogator told Wingfield-Hayes he had been the official to prosecute Kenneth Bae – a Korean-American missionary who was sentenced to 15 years’ hard labour in the country.
Evans said that Wingfield-Hayes was told to sign a confession confirming that his work had been inaccurate and the authorities were particularly concerned about two incidents.
In one, Wingfield-Hayes had questioned whether a visit by VIPs to a hospital had been staged by the authorities to make it seem better than it was, and another one when a cameraman was asked to delete pictures.
He said he believed his three colleagues were currently at the airport waiting to leave.
O Ryong Il, secretary-general of the North Korea’s National Peace Committee, said news coverage by Wingfield-Hayes distorted facts and “spoke ill of the system and the leadership of the country”.
He said Wingfield-Hayes wrote an apology, was being expelled and would never again be admitted into the country.
A BBC spokesperson said: “We are very disappointed that our reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and his team have been deported from North Korea after the government took offence at material he had filed.
“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.”
Picture: Credit, BBC (Wingfield-Hayes reporting from Libya)