Freedom of the Press
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Press Freedom Score (0 = best, 100 = worst)
Legal Environment(0 = best, 30 = 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. Although the constitution guarantees freedom of speech, in practice constitutional provisions for obeying a “collective spirit” restrict all reporting not sanctioned by the government. All journalists are members of the ruling party, and all media are mouthpieces for the regime. Journalists are punished harshly for even the smallest errors. 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.
Newspaper, television, and radio reports typically consist of praise of Kim Jong-il, often focusing on his daily activities. 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. On October 12, 2006, the North Korean TV station Joon Gang Bang Song condemned the activities of FNK, which broadcasts criticism of the Kim Jong-Il regime. Simultaneously, the North Korean official news agency KCNA criticized Radio Free Chosun and Open Radio for North Korea, both based in South Korea and supported by U.S. organizations, and asked the South Korean government to stop the broadcasts of both stations. Internet access is restricted to a handful of high-level officials who have received state approval and to 200 or so foreigners living in the capital, 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.