Washington: North Korea remained the
worst-rated country in press freedom last year, a
Washington-based non-governmental organization advocating
democracy, freedom and human rights has said.
In its Press Freedom in 2010 Report, Freedom House
also lowered South Korea's range to "Partly Free" from last
year's "Free," citing increased censorship and the
government's attempts to influence media outlets.
North Korea's ranking was 196th, the lowest of the
countries surveyed, and South Korea's 70th from last year's
Out of the 196 countries and territories assessed
during 2010, 68 were rated "Free," 65 "Partly Free" and 63
In downgrading South Korea, "which had long hovered at
the low end of the Free range," Freedom House cited "an
increase in official censorship as well as government attempts
to influence media outlets' news and information content."
"Over the past several years, an increasing number of online
comments have been removed for expressing either pro-North
Korean or anti-South Korean views," it said.
"The current conservative government has also
interfered in the management of major broadcast media, with
allies of President Lee Myung-bak receiving senior posts at
large media companies over the objections of journalists."
South Korea's National Security Law bans South Koreans from
siding with the communist North Korean government and
communicating with and contacting North Koreans without
Supporters of either liberal or conservative South
Korean presidents have long been appointed to lead major
broadcasting companies, which are partly or indirectly
controlled by the government despite their ostensible
independence from politics.
Freedom House said that the proportion of the world's
population that has access to a Free Press declined to its
lowest point in over a decade in 2010 "as repressive
governments intensified their efforts to control traditional
media and developed new techniques to limit the independence
of rapidly expanding internet-based media."
"Only 15 percent of the global population, one in six
people, live in countries where coverage of political news is
robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state
intrusion in media affairs is minimal and the press is not
subject to onerous legal economic pressures," it said.
Freedom House, however, predicted "a reversal of the
negative trend" in 2011, citing the role of the Internet and
other social media in the ongoing popular uprisings in the
Middle East and North Africa.
"While this report assesses developments in 2010, and
thus does not take into account the potentially dramatic
changes in Tunisia, Egypt and other Arab countries, its
findings are a vivid reminder of the central role that the
denial of press freedom has played in the suppression of
broader democratic rights in the Middle East and elsewhere."
"While the fate of political reform in the region
remains unclear, the demands for change could have ripple
effects in other parts of the world, including sub-Saharan
Africa, the former Soviet Union and even China, it said.
First Published: Tuesday, May 03, 2011, 14:41