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Report: Worldwide Press Freedom Declines

A Washington-based democracy advocacy group says media freedom around the world has declined to its lowest levels in a decade, including in places that had been making progress.

Freedom House released its annual press freedom report Thursday with North Korea ranked as the worst of the 197 countries and territories the group rated.

Project director Karin Karlekar told VOA that in 2013, only one out of every six people on the planet had access to a "free" media.

"We see attempts to control or manipulate the message, so increased use of propaganda, of trying to influence editorial content in advance. Then what we also see is a crackdown and harassment of bloggers and people who are using these mediums to get out information."

The report ranks Iran and Syria near the bottom, highlighting a trend in the Middle East, which Freedom House says had the biggest declines in press freedom.

Karlekar said there were high hopes that would change with the Arab Spring, but that there has been "significant backsliding" in the region.

The report ranks Eurasia as the worst region, with none of its population living in a country with a free media. It cites the jailing of beating of journalists in Russia as well as the brutal assaults of journalists in Ukraine.

Karlekar said press freedom in sub-Saharan Africa has remained steady, with some "bright spots" in West Africa and Southern Africa. The report points to better laws and a growing number of media outlets in that part of the world.

Freedom House says media freedom in Latin America hit a five-year low, with only two percent of people in those countries having access to a free media.