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North Korea most censored nation: UN

North Korea is followed by Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Eritrea, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Syria and Belarus.

india Updated: May 03, 2006 11:08 IST

North Korea topped a list of the world's 10 most censored countries, while the Iraq conflict has created a "very risky environment" for journalists, according to a UN report.

On the eve of the annual World Press Freedom Day on Tuesday, the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called North Korea "the world's deepest information void," in a report released at the UN headquarters.

"There is not a single independent journalist, and all radio and television receivers in the country are sold to government-specified frequencies," the CPJ said.

North Korea is followed on the list by Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Eritrea, Cuba, Uzbekistan, Syria and Belarus.

"People in these countries are virtually isolated from the rest of the world by authoritarian rulers who muzzle the media and keep a chokehold on information through restrictive laws, fear, and intimidation," said Ann Cooper, CPJ executive director.

Meanwhile, the UN's special envoy to Iraq, Ashraf Qazi, said that more than 70 journalists have been killed in the past three years in Iraq, including a great number of Iraqi reporters. Many more have been severely injured and maimed.

Qazi said that Iraq was a "very risky environment" for journalists and that the world should appreciate the "courage and sacrifices" made by Iraqi journalists in covering the conflict, which has been going on since the US-led invasion of Iraq in March, 2003.

UN Secretary General Kofi Annan offered his "firm support" for the universal right to freedom of expression, but also appealed to journalists to "exercise that right responsibly and, where possible, proactively."

"On World Press Freedom Day, let us recognise that national and global media not only report on change, but are themselves agents of change," Annan said in a statement.

"We should be grateful for the work and imagination of the press. I trust old and new media alike will be able to continue their work, unencumbered by threats, fear or other constraints."

The CPJ said its study on censorship showed that governments in the 10 listed countries have total control over print and electronic media.

Some of the countries did allow privately owned media outlets, but were operated by loyalists to the regimes in question.

In Uzbekistan, Belarus and Turkmenistan -- the three former Soviet republics -- the government's crackdown on the media has forced journalists to flee abroad.

Belarusian President Aleksander Lukashenko, whose recent re-election was denounced by many as fraudulent, jailed reporters who covered opposition politicians and charged them with crimes such as hooliganism, noted CPJ.

CPJ charged the Cuban government with organising "repudiation acts" for journalists who resist censorship, including sending demonstrators to surround the journalists' homes.

The New York-based CPJ aims to defend press freedom worldwide and keeps track of governments' harassment of journalists.

It also issues annual reports on casualties suffered by members of the media covering conflicts.