Freedom of the Press

2013-05-03

In its freedom of the press assessment, the global media watchdog Freedom House has rated South Korea a little higher than in previous years, but the country failed to take back its “Free” status. Meanwhile, North Korea ranked dead last on the press freedom list, remaining as the country with the worst press freedom restriction.

South Korea’s Press Freedom Index

According to the 2013 Press Freedom Report issued by Freedom House on Wednesday, May 1, South Korea earned 31 points in the Freedom of the Press index, ranking 64th place out of 197 countries, together with Chile, Israel, and Namibia. South Korea had scored 32 points in 2011, placing 70th with Hong Kong. In the following year the country’s index points remained the same as in 2011, but the ranking had climbed to 68th. However, South Korea’s media was categorized as “Partly Free,” failing to recover the “Free” status lost in 2011. Sixty-three countries were rated “Free” in terms of media freedom, putting South Korea just below the cutoff line.

Freedom of the Press Index

The Freedom of the Press index is released annually by the U.S.-based non-governmental organization Freedom House. The index is an assessment of the degree of press freedom exercised in each country. The index sums up the scores earned in 23 categories, including media monopoly, censure, and other legal, political, and economic factors relating to press freedom. Index points range from 0 to 100, with “0” indicating the freest media. Based on the index points, countries around the world are classified into three categories – “Free,” “Partly Free,” and “Not Free” nations. The annual survey has rated the countries since 1980.

2013 Press Freedom Report

This year’s Press Freedom Report placed Norway and Sweden at the top of the list as the countries with most press freedom. These two each earned 10 points in their Freedom of the Press index. Belgium, Finland, and the Netherlands followed in third place with 11 points, and Denmark, Luxembourg, and Switzerland jointly ranked sixth with 12 points. Ninth place went to Andorra which was given 13 points, and in tenth place were Iceland and Lichtenstein with 14 points. The United States ranked 23rd with 18 points, and Japan 40th with 24 points. Out of 197 surveyed nations, 63 countries or 32% of the total were rated “Free.” Seventy countries were included in the “Partly Free” category, which accounted for 36% of the total, and the remaining 64 countries or 32% were named “Not Free.”

The Worst-rated Countries

Freedom House put North Korea and Turkmenistan at the bottom of the list at 196th place, with 96 points each. North Korea has been named the country with the most repressive press environment every year since the first press freedom report was released in 1980. The Freedom House report describes that hardly any independent media exists in North Korea and the bottom ten countries on the list. The report added that the media speaks only for the regimes, and their residents have very limited access to unbiased information. However, North Korea has gained one fewer point than last year, as its media has shown more attempts to avoid government censure, and more North Koreans are viewing pirated DVDs, which are useful in spreading news and information from outside world.

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