North Korea detains BBC reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes for 'speaking ill of the country'

Wingfield-Hayes, producer Maria Byrne and cameraman Matthew Goddard will be expelled from country

Hannah Stubbs
Monday 09 May 2016 06:34
The BBC team was in the country to cover the Workers' Party Congress
The BBC team was in the country to cover the Workers' Party Congress

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.

Mr 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.

Mr Evans said Mr 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 Mr 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.

Mr Evans said that Mr 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, Mr 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 Mr Wingfield-Hayes distorted facts and "spoke ill of the system and the leadership of the country".

He said Mr Wingfield-Hayes wrote an apology, was being expelled and would never again be admitted into the country.

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