YouTube ban on North Korean propaganda removes important window into regime’s thinking, monitors say

AFP-JIJI

North Korea has become “more opaque” to the outside world following a decision by YouTube to silence an official propaganda channel, a monitoring group has warned.

Observers have long relied on state-run news for glimpses into Pyongyang’s shadowy regime and weapons program, but one such source — the Uriminzokkiri channel — went dark this month.

YouTube “has cut off a vital supply of video used by open source researchers, which means there is now less visibility into what’s happening in North Korea,” said Martyn Williams in a commentary published Friday on the respected website 38 North, which focuses on North Korea analysis. “The Western world’s understanding of North Korea is limited to begin with, cutting off access to these few windows into North Korean thinking and life further hampers our knowledge of the country.”

YouTube pulled the channel in early September with a message stating that it was in violation of “community standards.” The page currently has a notice that it is subject to a “legal complaint.”

The company was not immediately available for comment.

Academics use official footage of missile launches and visits to factories by the North’s leader, Kim Jong Un, to gain rare insights into the progress of the country’s weapons programs.

Williams said the YouTube move “served to highlight the sometimes unintended consequences of sanctions.”

North Korea was slapped with tough new restrictions this month after it conducted its sixth and largest nuclear test, following months of increasingly brazen missile launches.

The United Nations measures include limits on oil imports and a ban on lucrative textile exports.

The resolution also imposes asset freezes on government agencies, including the Propaganda and Agitation Department, which the U.N. said has “full control over the media.”

Experts have raised concerns over further punishing the already deeply isolated North, which has pressed on with nuclear and missile tests in defiance of a slew of previous embargoes.