May 2, 2011

World Press Freedom Declined in 2010

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WASHINGTON — The percentage of the world's population that has access to a free press declined to its lowest point in more than a decade during 2010, according to an annual survey released by Freedom House, which has documented media independence since 1980.

The results were announced May 2 at a ceremony at the Newseum, a day before World Press Freedom Day 2011, which was founded 20 years ago by UNESCO.

David Kramer, executive director of Freedom House, pointed to the front-page news of Osama bin Laden's death as a powerful reminder of the role of a free media around the world.

"They form a critical pillar of democracy around the world. They act as a check and balance against corruption, against abuses of power, against other problems that exist in the world," he said.

The Newseum's color-coordinated international map, located in the Time Warner World News Gallery, reflects the different levels of press freedom internationally as determined by Freedom House. Countries painted in green have a free press. Those in yellow have partial press freedom. The countries in red allow no press freedom.

In 2010, the press status in nine countries changed:

  • Four countries — Moldova, Guinea, Liberia and Niger — changed from "Not Free" to "Partly Free."
  • Four countries — Egypt, Honduras, Mexico and Thailand — changed from "Partly Free" to "Not Free."
  • One country — South Korea — changed from "Free" to "Partly Free."

Finland's press was the most free in the world, based on its well-established democratic system of governance, the homogeneity of the society, its status as one of world's wealthiest countries and its emphasis on transparency and equal rights.

North Korea's press was ranked the world's worst. The country controls all aspects of life for its 22.7 million citizens – including access to news. All media outlets in North Korea are run by the state. Internet access is rare, and content is strictly controlled.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization based in Washington, D.C., that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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