Welcome Washington Post Readers: So What’s All This About the Associated Press, You Ask?

Hey Chico, thanks for the links! So for those of you who are reading about the special relationship between the Associated Press and the North Korean government for the first time, let me frame the question this way: if any news service signed an agreement with the U.S. government to get special access to information, refused to disclose the terms of that agreement, issued a series of credulous and biased articles (and at least one faked photo) relaying The Official Position, and even co-sponsored an exhibit glorifying its political leadership, wouldn’t that raise a question of that news service’s objectivity, and perhaps even its journalistic ethics?

If so, then why should it bother you any less that the government in question is one that treats its people like this? And yes, in that light, it does seem odd that a member of the Board of Directors of Human Rights Watch is involved in hosting the AP’s North Korean propaganda show.


  1. I share your disdain about the Pyongyang regime, even in the post-Kim Jong-il era, as well as your concern that AP is being used as a propaganda tool.

    Unlike you, however, I do see some potential value in a major Western news service constantly having boots on the ground in North Korea, when/if some serious crap goes down up north.

    Even with a generally compliant media partner, it would be harder for Pyongyang to contain news and information about, say, a North Korean version of an Arab Spring, were that to occur.

    North Korea allows no one into its house unless they agree to play by their rules, not so froufrou “international norms” that everyone else abides by, and AP knows it. That leaves us with two choices: go along to get in the door, or stay locked outside. Although I wouldn’t want Reuters, AFP, the NYT, WaPo, LAT, BBC, etc., etc. to all choose this path, methinks it might be good that at least one agency is inside the lion’s den.

  2. Inspired by your post, I’ve elaborated on this a little more.

    I wrote of the potential for a Hawthorne Effect that prompts officialdom to behave a little better knowing they’re being observed, but it occurs to me that your shining a light on AP’s special relationship may do the same with them: perhaps your posts will embolden them present stories with a little more criticism of the regime.

  3. AP is already sufficiently corrupted – witness the CEO’s hagiographic blather re BHO when Obama addressed the organization the other day. Previous commenters have not raised the possibility that that the regime may try to influence reportage from AP on stories which do not originate in the DPRK. Perhaps the AP will find it necessary to edit such stories in order to maintain its special relationship. I do not see how this situation does any good at all.

  4. I agree with Charles. Like I said on Kushibo’s blog: I’m not seeing any pro quo for the quid of the Associated Press serving as North Korea’s PR flack.

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