North Korea | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

North Korea

North Korea

Freedom of the Press 2010

2010 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

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


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

  • North Korea remained the most repressive media environment in the world in 2009. The one-party regime owns all media, attempts to regulate all communication, and rigorously limits the ability of North Koreans to access information.
  • Although the constitution theoretically guarantees freedom of speech, constitutional provisions calling for adherence to a “collective spirit” restrict all reporting that is not sanctioned by the government in practice.
  • All journalists are members of the ruling party, and all media outlets are mouthpieces for the regime. Under the penal code, listening to foreign broadcasts and possessing dissident publications are “crimes against the state” that carry grave punishments, including hard labor, prison sentences, and the death penalty.
  • North Korean media portray all dissidents and foreign journalists as liars attempting to destabilize the government, and authorities sharply curtail the ability of foreign journalists to gather information by seizing their mobile telephones upon arrival, preventing them from talking to people on the street, and constantly monitoring their movements.
  • In March 2009, two U.S. journalists, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, were arrested at the Chinese border and incarcerated in North Korea for committing “hostile acts.” In June, they were sentenced to 12 years in a labor camp. They were later freed after former U.S. president Bill Clinton traveled to Pyongyang to negotiate their release in early August.
  • In 2007, a Japanese journalist and several North Korean refugees launched Rimjinkang, the first newsmagazine to be based on independent reporting from inside the country. The reporting is conducted by specially trained North Koreans—most of them refugees along the country’s border with China—who have agreed to go back into North Korea and operate as undercover journalists using hidden cameras.
  • Internet access is restricted to a handful of high-level officials who have received state approval, and to about 200 foreigners living in the capital, Pyongyang; all foreign websites are blocked by the state.