APTN first to set up North Korea bureau

For the first time in North Korea's history, a Western news organisation has been given permission to establish a full-time bureau in the country.

This week, after four years of negotiations with the North Korean authorities, international television agency Associated Press Television News (APTN) opened an office in the country's capital, Pyonyang.

APTN's executive director, Nigel Baker said: "North Korea was one of the last places in the world where there were no Western media.

"It was obviously a story of huge interest and fascination to the rest of the world.

"A news agency's role is to report from as many places as possible and obviously we felt that it was important to be the first people to base there."

Three North Korean journalists will work in KRT's premises and feed stories through their facilities to APTN.

APTN chiefs insisted that they will aim to ensure their coverage is as free and open as possible.

A spokesperson said: "One of the key objectives for the organisation is to ensure the news that is reported is based on AP standards rather than the North Korean agenda."

The three journalists will be reporting to an editorial team in London and Washington. Baker described the fouryear negotiation process with the North Koreans as "a very protracted conversation".

APTN first made a request for a bureau in 2002 when they were in the country to cover a gymnastics festival.

Baker said: "We have had continued negotiations about the size and the scope of the bureau. They are naturally conservative — they move at a very cautious pace and that was the reason that it took four years."

While APTN is also keen to illustrate the human-interest stories in the country, the main source of news will be North Korea's nuclear activities and the country's relationship with the United States.

Baker remained optimistic that APTN would have access to top stories, despite restrictions.

As part of the agreement with the KRT, APTN is able to have regular visits by its international journalists and by news executives from London.

He said: "We have had sustained and regular access over the past four years. It is about constantly pushing the boundaries to cover a wider agenda.

"Now we have a base there, that will enable us to keep increasing the amount of news that we can cover."

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