North Korea, worst-rated country in press freedom: Freedom House
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Last Updated: Tuesday, May 03, 2011, 14:41
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 67th.

Out of the 196 countries and territories assessed during 2010, 68 were rated "Free," 65 "Partly Free" and 63 "Not Free."

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 government permission.

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

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