The Listening Post
Peering into North Korea
We look at the media landscape in the world's most secretive state, plus the challenges facing Zimbabwe's journalists.
Last Modified: 09 Oct 2010 09:48 GMT

On The Listening Post this week we look at the photo that spoke a thousand words about the power dynamics in North Korea, and we returned to Zimbabwe to see what conditions are like there for local journalists nearly two years into the power-sharing agreement.

When you dealing with a country as insular and secretive as North Korea, any scrap of information that gets out can become a pretty big deal. That is exactly what happened when a photo - taken after the Korean Workers' Party Conference (the only political party in North Korea) – surfaced in its state-run media.

Framed like a class photo, there was a new addition to the front row – Kim Jong-Il's youngest son, Kim Jong-un. Many North Korea watchers called it a sure sign that Kim Jong-un is now in line for the presidency.

It is a tenuous assumption to make from a picture but that is the name of the game in North Korea. Our News Divide this week goes beyond the photograph and looks a little closer at the media landscape in the world's most secretive state.

When we reported on Zimbabwe last month, we examined the unity government's failure to sufficiently free up the media as it promised to do when it was formed nearly two years ago. This week we focus more on what life is like for local journalists - reporting from within the country.

When our cameraman arrived in Zimbabwe he was greeted with a fairly promising sign: A frank, open and transparent news conference. An administration official met with the media to discuss reports that they had been selling animals to North Korea. Under the old regime it would have been very unlikely that journalists would have been given the opportunity to pry into a matter like that, so improvements are being made in the media.

But the longer we stayed, the more independent journalists we spoke to, the more we learnt that things were not as open as we originally thought. Although the government is not silencing the media with the same bellicosity that it did before, journalists are still being harassed and the threat of jail is still very real. The Listening Post's Nick Muirhead reports on the challenges Zimbabwean journalists face today. 

In our Newsbytes this week: An AP reporter is brutally assaulted in Kashmir, allegedly by Indian police. Russian police investigators say they will reopen 19 unsolved murder cases of journalists in the country. A French newspaper commits a faux-pas that blows an arms deal between France and the UAE? A prominent Egyptian editor claims he was fired simply for trying run an article, whilst CNN correspondent Rick Sanchez is fired by the network after comments he made during a radio interview about the Jewish influence in the American media.

Wherever possible, we try to link our Internet Video of the Week back to the broadcast. While trawling the internet we came across this video. It is an animation by Next Media Limited - the progressive media outfit based in Hong Kong – and it is their take on North Korea, and the Kim dynasty. Most media outlets would probably try and avoid reducing this complex North Korean power shift into a caricature, but we think they did it quite well.

This episode of The Listening Post aired from Friday, October 8, 2010.

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