Funding for North Korean Refugee Journalists

Lord Alton, Co-Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on North Korea, asked the United Kingdom Government for their assessment of the statement by Marzuki Darusman, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on human rights in North Korea, that the UK should consider “implementation of all recommendations made by the United Nations Commission of Inquiry in its report, including steps to increase the flow of free and impartial information into North Korea”; and whether the Department for International Development has considered allocating resources, directly or via BBC Media Action, to help train North Korean refugees in broadcasting and journalism.

Lord Alton
Lord Alton

Despite North Korea ranking as one of the least free countries for news and information, and the UK Government’s provision of £89.8m over five years (2011-2016) to BBC Media Action to target information-poor countries with poor governance and accountability, Lord Gardiner of Kimble noted that “the Government has made no such consideration” in its allocation of funding.

Baroness Northover noted an FCO-funded project “delivered by the Thomson Foundation titled ‘Inside Out: Working in North Korea to connect its journalists to the Internet world’, which aims to give North Korean journalists a greater understanding of freedom of expression and using the internet to express it” as an example of UK Government engagement on the issue of freedom of expression and information.

Yet according to the report of the UN Commission of Inquiry, “All media content, including television, newspapers and radio [in North Korea], is controlled by the Publication and Broadcasting Department which operates within the Propaganda Department of the Workers’ Party of Korea…There is no editorial freedom in the DPRK; all stories published at all levels are pre-determined and centrally controlled” and “Internet access is restricted to a limited few such as universities or some members of the elite…and home computers are not connected to the intranet system”.

Furthermore, the UN report found that “the Workers’ Party of Korea at the local and central level are directly involved in human rights violations, in particular violations of the rights to
freedom of expression…Through its extensive indoctrination programme…[that] seeks to deny its citizen[s] freedom of thought and freedom of information”.