Irish woman among BBC crew expelled from North Korea for reports that 'spoke ill of the system'

Irish woman among BBC crew expelled from North Korea for reports that 'spoke ill of the system'

An Irish woman is among a BBC team expelled from North Korea for what is been described as "disrespectful reporting".

35-year-old Maria Byrne from Tullow, Co Carlow is a Senior Producer with BBC's Asia Team based in Beijing.

Maria Byrne, journalist Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and a cameraman were arrested on Friday as they were about to leave North Korea.

They were detained by authorities in the secretive state for what is described as "disrespectful reporting".

They had been there to cover the Workers Party Congress and according to Maria's father, Pat Byrne, who spoke to KCLR this morning, the last contact they had from her was Friday.

He says the family are "completely shell-shocked" at the moment as they have not heard any official word about whether or not she has actually been expelled from the country.

O Ryong Il, secretary-general of the North's National Peace Committee, said Mr Wingfield-Hayes' news coverage distorted facts and "spoke ill of the system and the leadership of the country".

He said Mr Wingfield-Hayes wrote an apology, and was being expelled and would never be admitted into the country again.

The BBC said Mr Wingfield-Hayes' producer Maria Byrne and cameraman Matthew Goddard were also detained and expelled.

The three arrived in Beijing on a flight on Monday evening. Mr Wingfield-Hayes said only that he was glad to be out and would have a statement later. His colleagues did not speak.

"We are very disappointed that our reporter Rupert Wingfield-Hayes and his team have been deported from North Korea after the government took offence at material he had filed," the BBC said in a statement.

"Four BBC staff, who were invited to cover the Workers Party Congress, remain in North Korea and we expect them to be allowed to continue their reporting."

More than 100 foreign journalists are in the capital for North Korea's first party congress in 36 years, though they have largely been prevented from actually covering the proceedings and the more than 3,400 delegates.

Officials have kept the foreign media busy with trips around Pyongyang to show them the places it most wants them to see - a maternity hospital with seemingly state-of-the-art equipment, a wire-making factory where managers say salaries and production are both going up, and the humble birthplace of national founder Kim Il Sung, which has been converted into a sort of museum-park with a large "funfair" right next door.

About 30 of the journalists finally got a peek at the congress on Monday, for about 10 minutes.


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