In the case of Rwanda, it is wrong to argue that only academics working outside the country are capable of critical comment, says Phil Clark How far should a journalist go to secure access to a violent or repressive country? This question grabbed the attention of academics earlier this year after the BBC used a group of London School of Economics students to disguise a visit to North Korea to film undercover for a Panorama documentary. The broadcaster stood by its decision not to pull the programme, which aired in April, but the LSE’s director, Craig Calhoun, warned that the episode had put the institution’s staff and students at risk. “The school works in politically sensitive and unstable countries,” Calhoun wrote on Times Higher Education’s website at the time. “We study democracy and democratisation, social movements and economic change, international politics and regional relations…We study them, often, by physically visiting territories where suspicion of foreigners asking questions runs high. That suspicion is heightened by incidents such as this. In order to pursue our academic mission, our students and our staff need to be able to move as freely as possible about the world without facing stigmatization.” While the objectives of journalists and academics can be very different, questions about access – gaining it, maintaining it and whether, in some cases, there may be too high a price to pay for it – are very familiar to researchers studying countries that are subject to authoritarian rule or where there has been recent mass conflict. Is access predicated on the assumption that certain research topics or views are “off-limits”? Do those granted access practise self-censorship? Such issues are regularly debated by academics specialising in the countries where I conduct most of my research – Rwanda, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo – but it is in the case of Rwanda that debate about whether academics can combine fieldwork with criticism of national authorities has been most intense. During the past five years, some academics, including seasoned scholars, have stopped travelling to Rwanda in particular because of fears for their safety or that of their local respondents. This has coincided with a sea change in international opinion of the country. After the 1994 genocide, Rwanda’s efforts to rebuild itself were lauded by foreign journalists and policymakers, and it was often held up as a global model of donor-assisted development and stability. In recent years, however, it has been criticised for the violent suppression of opposition at home and abroad, and because of the government’s support for various rebel movements in the east of the Democratic Republic of Congo….. more via Must academics researching authoritarian regimes self-censor? | Features | Times Higher Education.