13 April 2013 21:29 ET
The London School of Economics is demanding the BBC withdraw Monday’s Panorama programme about North Korea.
It says reporter John Sweeney posed as one of its PHD students on a university society trip in order to film undercover in the country.
The BBC says the students were told a journalist was among the group and warned of the risks.
But the LSE says they “were not given enough information to enable informed consent” and were “endangered” .
In an email sent to LSE students and staff, the university says two other people working for the BBC also were on the trip.
It said the university authorities did not have advance knowledge of the visit.
“At no point prior to the trip was it made clear to the students that a BBC team of three had planned to use the trip as cover for a major documentary to be shown on Panorama,” it said.
“It is LSE’s view that the students were not given enough information to enable informed consent, yet were given enough to put them in serious danger if the subterfuge had been uncovered prior to their departure from North Korea.”
Its letter went on: “While this particular trip was run in the name of a student society, the nature of LSE’s teaching and research means that aspects of North Korea are legitimate objects of study in several of our academic disciplines…
“The BBC’s actions may do serious damage to LSE’s reputation for academic integrity and may have seriously compromised the future ability of LSE students and staff to undertake legitimate study of North Korea, and very possibly of other countries where suspicion of independent academic work runs high.”
It added: “LSE is fully supportive of the principle of investigative journalism in the public interest, and applauds the work of journalists in dangerous parts of the world. We cannot, however, condone the use of our name, or the use of our students, as cover for such activities.”
The LSE said the BBC director general Lord Hall refused its request to withdraw the programme and “issue a full apology to LSE for the actions of BBC staff in using the school and its good reputation as a means of deception”.
On its website, Panorama says Sweeney spent eight days undercover inside North Korea for the programme.
“Travelling from the capital Pyongyang to the countryside beyond and to the de-militarised zone on the border with South Korea, Sweeney witnesses a landscape bleak beyond words, a people brainwashed for three generations and a regime happy to give the impression of marching towards Armageddon,” it says.
In a statement, a BBC spokesman said: “We recognised that because it could increase the risks of the trip, the students should be told in advance that a journalist intended to travel with them, in order to enable the students to make their decision about whether they wanted to proceed.
“They were given this information, and were reminded of it again, in time to have been able to change their plans if they wanted to. The students were all explicitly warned about the potential risks of travelling to North Korea with the journalist as part of their group.
“This included a warning about the risk of arrest and detention and that they might not be allowed to return to North Korea in the future.”
LSE student union newspaper the Beaver quotes Alex Peters-Day, general secretary of the LSE Students’ Union, as saying “it was not the BBC’s place to make decisions on behalf of the students on the trip, nor was it the BBC’s place to put at risk all those within the school”.
Writing on Twitter, Sweeney said: “we dispute LSE statement. We’ve also had pressure from NK agency”.
He said he was prepared to address the LSE student union to “explain the facts about the trip and NK”.
Also on Twitter, Craig Calhoun, the director of the LSE, said the “BBC story put LSE students at danger but seems to have found no new information and only shown what North Korea wants tourists to see”.
using the number/letter grid:
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9
A B C D E F G H I
J K L M N O P Q R
S T U V W X Y Z
A = 1 J = 1 S = 1
B = 2 K = 2 T = 2
C = 3 L = 3 U = 3
D = 4 M = 4 V = 4
E = 5 N = 5 W = 5
F = 6 O = 6 X = 6
G = 7 P = 7 Y = 7
H = 8 Q = 8 Z = 8
I = 9 R = 9
1685 1555557 53
his path of destiny = 53 = “LSE is fully supportive of the principle of investigative journalism.”
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learn numerology from numerologist to the world, Ed Peterson: