Irish woman part of BBC team expelled from North Korea for "disrespectful reporting"

Maria Byrne (35) from Tullow is a Senior Producer with BBC's Asia Team

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A man pushes his bicycle past the Pyongyang train station which is decorated with the ruling Workers' Party flags. Image: Wong Maye-E / AP/Press Association Images

A Carlow woman is part of a BBC team which has reportedly been expelled from North Korea for what's described as "disrespectful reporting".

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

Maria, along with journalist Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, and cameraman Matthew Goddard, were arrested on Friday as they were about to leave the secretive state.

Mr Wingfield-Hayes was questioned for eight hours and 'made to sign a statement', the BBC says.

The group was then held for the weekend before being moved to the airport.

The broadcaster says that "the North Korean leadership was displeased with their reports highlighting aspects of life in the capital".

BBC correspondent John Sudworth, who is also in Pyongyang, said there had been a “disagreement, a concern over the content of Rupert’s reporting”.

Mr Wingfield-Hayes and his crew were in North Korea ahead of the Workers Party Congress, which got underway last week. The BBC team were also accompanying a group of Nobel laureates.

The Congress is only the 7th major gathering of the ruling party's officials, and is the first since 1980.

While more than 120 journalists from 12 countries have been permitted to cover the event, they have not yet been allowed attend the actual proceedings.

Maria's father, Pat Byrne, spoke to local radio station KCLR this morning, and said the last contact they have had from her was Friday.

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

However, it is believed that the team have now been deported.