North Korea has reportedly blocked access to Instagram, a service that has been widely used by journalists and tourists to share glimpses of life inside the secretive hermit kingdom.
Eric Talmadge, the Pyongyang Bureau Chief of the Associated Press, reports that government warnings have begun appearing on Instagram’s website and app for users connecting from within North Korea. The messages “say access to the popular photo-sharing app is being denied and that the site is blacklisted for harmful content.”
He managed to share a screenshot of the message in the app through his Instagram account:
Talmadge says that the warnings have been appearing on and off for the past week, and that posting photos to the service have been “virtually impossible.”
North Korean 3G mobile operator Koryolink says its not aware of any change in official policy regarding Instagram, and the government has so far been mum about it as well.
The Internet is generally off-limits to all North Korean citizens, so Instagram usage has been limited to a select few foreigners who use the service to provide the world with a window into things generally not seen by the outside world. Instagram accounts such as photojournalist David Guttenfelder’s @everydaydprk have amassed tens of thousands of followers by sharing snapshots of life in the country.
According to The Guardian , some believe that this ban on Instagram is the result of a luxury hotel fire that broke out back on June 11th.
It's not perfect because security agents were stopping people taking pics, but here's Pyongyang's Koryo Hotel on fire pic.twitter.com/XoB7SwfO6w
— James Pearson (@pearswick) June 13, 2015
News and photos of the fire emerged on social media and were shared around the world, but North Korea’s official state-run media has yet to report on the incident.
“There’s no better place to test the power of photography and social media than a place like North Korea,” Guttenfelder tells The Verge. “The photography that has been posted has been a really important part of illuminating a country that we don’t know anything about… I think it’s a shame if they aren’t able to continue to do it.”
Image credits: Header illustration based on photo by (stephan)