Korean authorities bar press from site

International journalists were confronted by the reality of North Korea’s closed society this week after authorities barred access to the site of train explosions at Ryongchon station.

Press freedom campaigner Reporters Without Borders (RWB) was forced to write to the head of the North Korean permanent mission in Geneva, urging access to the scene of the disaster by journalists.

RWB said it was “shocked by the stance of the North Korean authorities which have refused to allow journalists to report from the scene”.

It protested that the administration in the capital Pyongyang was also refusing to give precise information to aid organisations.

RWB, which ranked North Korea as the “worst country in the world for press freedom” for two successive years, accused its government of releasing information about the train disaster “in dribs and drabs, with complete disregard for the victims”.

Many foreign journalists who travelled to the Chinese town of Dandong on the North Korean border were barred from entering Ryongchon.

BBC News correspondent Louisa Lim, one of the international journalists reporting from Dandong, described the border town as “little more than an information black hole,” as they faced a wall of silence from the local people, as well as the authorities.

The local press in Dandong also participated in the news blackout by excluding articles about the explosion.

By Wale Azeez

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