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North Korea, Burma Top List of Most Censored Countries

A respected journalists' organization has singled out North Korea as the most censored country in the world.

An analysis by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has concluded that North Korea is the world's deepest information void.

That was the main finding of a CPJ survey of the 10 most censored countries that was released to mark World Press Freedom Day, May 3.

The list also included Burma, Turkmenistan, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Eritrea, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Syria and Belarus.

But CPJ Executive Director Ann Cooper says when it comes to press censorship, North Korea is in a class by itself.

"North Korea, I don't think there's any argument, comes out at the top of the list," she said. "There's simply no other place with the degree of control that North Korea has. Although it hasn't appeared on other lists that we've done, it's not the most dangerous country in the world for journalists, because there are no independent journalists there."

The CPJ report says North Korea's news media serve a daily diet of what it calls "fawning coverage of 'Dear Leader' Kim Jong-il," while the country's poverty and famines are never mentioned.

Cooper said Burma is almost as bad. There, the ruling junta owns all daily newspapers and radio, along with the country's three television channels. The few privately owned Burmese publications must submit content to a Press Scrutiny Board. Such censorship delays make daily publishing impossible.

Cooper also singled out Belarus for special criticism, calling President Alexandr Lukashenko's government the most repressive in Europe in terms of press freedom.

In the Americas, she said Fidel Castro's Cuba remains the worst violator, with the second highest number of jailed journalists in the world.

"There are still two dozen Cuban journalists in prison and it does remain the second worst jailer of journalists in the world after China," she added. "We hope governments around the world that care about democracy and press freedom will not give up on pressuring Cuba to release these journalists who have been unnecessarily put in prison."

Cooper noted that several countries that have been harshly criticized for other abuses of press freedom, including China and Zimbabwe, are not included in this list. She said China does not fit the "most censored" category, because while there is a lot of repression, there is also more information coming in, particularly through the Internet, making the Chinese people less isolated than they were some years ago.

As for Robert Mugabe's Zimbabwe, Cooper said while most independent media have been squeezed out, and 100 journalists are living in exile, a few foreign journalists are gaining entrance and foreign broadcasts are heard. She called Zimbabwe and China "terrible situations," but not as dire as those on the list.