BBC denies it used students as 'human shield' in N. Korea

April 14, 2013 at 5:56 PM
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LONDON, April 14 (UPI) -- The BBC denies allegations by a student group that it used college students as a cover, without their knowledge, to get into North Korea to film a documentary.

Three BBC journalists accompanied a group of 10 London School of Economics students on an eight-day visit to the Communist country. Alex Peters-Day of LSE students' union accuses the network of lying to the students so they could not have given informed consent to go along with the subterfuge, the BBC said Sunday. Peters-Day wants the BBC to drop the airing of its "Panorama" program Monday.

The BBC contends the students were given proper notice ahead of the trip and the North Koreans were the only ones who were tricked.

"We have a duty to give enough information to people on a trip like this so they can give us fully informed consent," Ceri Thomas, head of the BBC's news programs, said. "There were 10 students. We told them there would be a journalist on the trip and, if that journalist was discovered, it could mean detention and that it could mean arrest."

Peters-Day said the covert filming by the BBC journalists puts future LSE research "at risk."

"For us, this is a matter of student welfare -- students were lied to, they weren't able to give their consent," she said. "I think the trip was organized by the BBC as potentially a ruse for them to get into North Korea and that's disgraceful.

"They've used students essentially as a human shield in this situation."

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, the umbrella organization for British colleges, said universities "must be able to work with integrity and operate in sensitive areas of the world."

"The way that this BBC investigation was conducted might not only have put students' safety at risk, but may also have damaged our universities' reputations overseas."

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