Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Principle is Principle: Reporting in North Korea

By Stephanie Zhou (Brooklyn, NY)

“Why can’t we take pictures behind the statue?” asked Brian Rokus '99, CNN producer and fellow member of the SJP family.

The North Korean official paused at the question, showing a hint of doubt. It didn’t take long for his eyes to switch gears with a stern sense of authority. “Well, principle is principle.” Clearly, North Korea runs by strict principle.

I can’t believe it’s already day four of the program. SJPers are already very familiar with Friend 109, the classroom devoted to many journalism discussions, debates, and workshops.

After breakfast, Brian Rokus delivered a workshop about foreign correspondence. He described his trip to North Korea with his boss and CNN reporter, Christiane Amanpour. He also showed us the segment that covers the New York Philharmonic's concert in Pyongyang, called “Notes from North Korea.”

North Korea is a hereditary dictatorship, led by Kim Jong-Il. North Koreans have absolutely no freedom to express themselves—no internet, no freedom to travel, and no freedom of speech, the number one right that lives on tip of a journalist’s pencil. When there is that rare occasion that the press is allowed in North Korea, reporters are required to wear a blue armband that reads "reporter."

Brian explained that the North Korean government intended to show off to the American reporters--from the grand feast for breakfast to the newspaper. The entire paper was dedicated to Kim Jong-Il, the “brilliant commander” who celebrates his birthday as a national holiday.

I found it the most interesting when he spoke about the random pedestrians CNN interviewed during their time in North Korea. Many of the people said they hated the United States. Brian explained that people in North Korea are under the impression that the United States started the Korean War and is currently the reason that Korea is still split at the 38th parallel. There was a possibility that they were only saying those things because they didn't want to get in trouble for speaking against the North Korean government. It just goes to show how much governments in different parts of the world can manipulate the power of journalism, the power to educate.

Leaning back, Brian let out a chuckle and his chair let out a squeak.

“When your teacher asks you why you couldn’t do your homework just reply, well, you know, principle is principle.”

No comments:

Post a Comment