June 20, 2017

AP and Its ‘Experts’ Can’t ‘Make Sense of’ North Korea’s Mistreatment of Otto Warmbier

Otto Warmbier, the 22-year-old student from Wyoming, Ohio and the University of Virginia who was returned to his family in a coma last week after being imprisoned in North Korea for over a year, died on Monday. Tuesday morning, the Associated Press and “experts” it consulted somehow found the communist nation’s treatment of Warmbier “one of the more perplexing and heart-rending developments in North Korea’s long, antagonistic standoff with its neighbors and Washington.” A reading of AP’s “analysis” indicates that it’s fair to claim that restrictions North Korea has placed on the wire service in return for its presence there have pervasively affected the credibility of all of its reporting from and even about that country.

In a Sunday report by the wire service’s Southwestern Ohio-based Dan Sewell, Warmbier’s roommate on the fateful trip to North Korea sponsored by a Chinese tour group had it completely figured out:

“Every once in a while they single out someone to make a point, and this was just Otto’s turn. It’s so sick and warped and unnecessary and evil.” — Danny Gratton, Warmbier’s roommate in Pyongyang

The UK Guardian reported that the left-leaning Human Rights Watch also had it pegged (bolds are mine throughout this post):

Human Rights Watch said Warmbier’s death “after being abused in North Korean custody” proved the regime was willing to “brutalize and kill to maintain their hold on power.”

Of course, Gratton’s and HRW’s observations didn’t make it into Tuesday’s supposedly deeper “analysis,” nor did Gratton’s claim that, in AP’s words, “he never heard or saw any hint that Warmbier planned or did anything wrong.”

Instead, the AP’s Foster Klug, even though he was reporting from Seoul, South Korea and not from North Korea’s capital of Pyongyang, failed to tag that country’s regime as communist even once, and drily reported that “a (North Korean) court sentenced him to 15 years in prison with hard labor for allegedly trying to steal a propaganda banner.” He further failed to inform readers that the “evidence” that the country supplied the world about Warmbier’s alleged crime proved absolutely nothing.

Here are the opening paragraphs from Klug’s clunker, wherein we see the AP and its “experts” absurdly attempt to portray a supposedly sophisticated, “proud” government, i.e., not a cult-of-personality communist tyranny, which somehow made an “unusual” mistake with Otto Warmbier:


North Korea’s missile and nuclear tests, its carefully scripted propaganda bluster, even its military threats: Far from the scattershot workings of a madman, most of this fits the playbook of a small, proud country well used to stoking tensions to get concessions it would otherwise not receive from surrounding big powers.

What happened to Otto Warmbier, an American college student who died just days after North Korea released him from detention in a coma, is far more difficult to make sense of.

It jars so strikingly with the fates of most past detained Americans that outside observers are left struggling not only with the mystery of what killed Warmbier but also with what his death means for attempts by Washington and its allies to stop North Korea’s pursuit of a nuclear-tipped ICBM that can target the U.S. mainland.

“The treatment of Otto Warmbier is beyond the pale of North Korea’s usual standards,” said John Delury, an Asia expert at Seoul’s Yonsei University. “It’s worth a forceful response. The U.S. government should not just throw up its hands and say, ‘This is just how North Korea is.’ But how do you do that in a smart way where there is some modicum of accountability?”

Here’s later verbiage, wherein readers will see a blatant example of abusive labeling:

… Some observers believe that North Korea became worried because Warmbier’s condition suddenly worsened.

“North Korea sent him back to the United States before he died because more questions would have been raised about his death and the situation would have gotten worse if it had returned his dead body,” said Cheong Seong-jang, an analyst at the private Sejong Institute in South Korea.

Others believe it is unlikely that North Korea intentionally harmed Warmbier because he was valuable as a political pawn. Poor hygienic conditions, diet or bad medical care may have been responsible for a coma that North Korean doctors couldn’t handle.

Some outside experts see an internal divide in North Korea between officials who believe solving the long standoff with Seoul and Washington is the best way to improve the country’s economy and international standing, and hard-liners who believe that outside pressure, isolation and animosity help keep the ruling Kim family in power by solidifying domestic support.

The last thing conservatives want, the argument goes, is curious American tourists talking with citizens and undercutting decades of propaganda that assures North Koreans that they are the envy of the world.

Note how the AP described ruthless communist hard-liners as “conservatives.”

This is, from all appearances, what happens when a news organization sells its soul to a tyrannical regime for the sake of gaining supposedly priceless “access.” Based on known evidence and pathetic “analysis” such as that discussed in this post, that is exactly what the Associated Press has done.

A December 2014 article at the website of the left-leaning Foreign Policy magazine noted that “AP opened its (Pyongyang, North Korea) bureau in Jan. 2012, and remains the only major Western news organization to have a decent-sized footprint in North Korea.”

That article primarily relied on a damning NKnews.org article to criticize what the wire service had done to gain that footprint. Though it is behind a paywall, its headline and subheadline are visible:


Per Foreign Policy, the details Nate Thayer provided, hotly but in my view inadequately disputed by AP, included the following:

… AP limits its reporting on North Korean leader Kim Jong Un.

Korean Central News Agency (KCNA), a state-run news agency, had final say over (the) hiring of AP’s North Korean journalists … (and) “To pay its North Korean colleagues in the face of prohibitive financial sanctions … AP couriers bring in $12,000 in ‘bulk cash’ by hand each month.”

The AP didn’t use exclusive interview material it had from Americans imprisoned in North Korea (an AP spokesperson told NKNews — absurdly — that the interviews had no “news value.”)

That final item, if still true since Warmbier’s sentencing in 2016, could be pertinent to the Warmbier saga.

Did AP interview Warmbier shortly after his imprisonment and fail to disclose pertinent information it might have learned about his condition? Or did it try and fail while successfully interviewing others who have been detained, and not tell the world about that irregularity?

Fish himself added the following personal observations:

… I reported on the AP bureau shortly after it just opened, in March 2012, and found it shocking that the AP journalists working in Pyongyang could not live there full-time, and were very restrained on their movements.

… In 2012, Andrei Lankov, a North Korea scholar, told me that the odds are “99 percent” that the two North Korean journalists working in the AP bureau at the time “come from the secret police or intelligence services.”

In the linked 2012 article, Fish reported that “Western journalists in North Korea remain in the presence of minders practically all the time they are outside the state-run hotels.”

The restrictions to which AP has apparently acquiesced fit a tragic pattern. They strongly resemble conditions the wire service allegedly agreed to as it remained virtually the only news organization allowed to operate in Nazi Germany during the mid- and late-1930s.

Thayer’s bottom line, as paraphrased by Fish: “AP pulls its punches on its reporting in order to keep in Pyongyang’s good graces.” Given that the analysis discussed here originated from Seoul, that appears to be true not only of reporting from North Korea, but also of any AP reporting about North Korea anywhere in the world.

If it were honest with its readers and subscribing news organizations, the AP would warn them at the beginning of any news item or analysis originating from or about North Korea that “Restrictions North Korea has placed on our news operations in that country adversely affect the completeness and accuracy of any our reporting from or even about that country, as well as our analysis of events affecting it.”

If the AP won’t include that disclosure, its subscribing news organizations should.

Cross-posted at NewsBusters.org.


1 Comment

  1. This is pretty bad, but what really shows you what POS liberals are is that there are many of them who are gloating over Otto’s death because of his so-called “white privilege.” Disgusting.

    Comment by zf — June 20, 2017 @ 5:52 pm

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