North Korea | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

North Korea

North Korea

Freedom of the Press 2006

2006 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


Second-generation dictator Kim Jong-il rules this one-party state with military force and places severe restrictions on media freedom and the ability of North Koreans to access information. All journalists are members of the ruling party, and all media are mouthpieces for the regime. The government runs a propaganda system under which all journalism is dedicated to exalting Kim Il-sung and his son Kim Jong-il. Journalists are punished harshly for even the smallest of errors. According to Reporters Sans Frontieres, in 2005 a journalist was sentenced to a "revolutionization" camp for several months for mistakenly referring to a deputy minister as simply a minister. The North Korean media portray all dissidents and the foreign media as liars attempting to "destabilize the government" and the government severely restricts the ability of foreign journalists to access information by claiming their cell phone upon arrival and preventing them from talking to people in the street, all the while monitoring their movements. North Koreans face harsh punishments, including prison sentences and hard labor, for accessing foreign media. Televisions and radios are permanently fixed to state channels, and all publications are subject to strict prepublication censorship.

Newspaper, television, and radio reports typically consist of praise of Kim Jong-il, often focusing on his daily activities. In February 2005, the Pyongyang Shimun, a four-page newspaper published in the capital of Pyongyang, began running the first experimental commercial advertisements. Radios must be registered with the police and are preset to government frequencies. Some North Koreans purchase a second radio set that is not registered with the police, enabling them to listen to broadcasts by Radio Free Asia and the South Korean public radio station KBS. Free North Korea (FNK), the first radio station run by North Korean refugees living in South Korea, began broadcasting in February 2004. In 2005, FNK signed a contract with the Voice of America to broadcast daily 30-minute segments about the lives of North Koreans living in the south. Internet access is restricted to a small number of elites who have received state approval and to 200 or so foreigners living in Pyongyang; all foreign websites are blocked by the state. For most North Koreans with computer access, web surfing takes place only on the state-run intranet.