By Lee Hyo-sik
Press freedom in South Korea deteriorated in 2010 compared to a year earlier due to increased state censorship, an international media freedom advocacy group said Tuesday.
Tied with Burma, North Korea came in last as it exerts an outright ban on independent news reporting.
In its ``Freedom of the Press 2011 Survey,’’ Freedom House, a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C., ranked South Korea 70th among 196 countries and territories with 32 points in a press freedom index last year, down from 67th the previous year.
The nation’s press freedom was classified as ``partly free’’ in 2010, downgraded from ``free’’ a year earlier.
Countries are given a total score from 0 (best) to 100 (worst) on the basis of 23 methodology questions divided into three subcategories ― legal, political and economic environment.
``South Korea, which had long hovered at the low end of the `free’ range, slipped by two points, from 30 to 32, earning it a `partly free’ designation. Contributing factors included an increase in official censorship as well as government attempts to influence news and information content,’’ Freedom House said.
It also said over the past several years, an increasing number of online comments have been removed for expressing either proNorth Korean or antiSouth Korean views.
``The current conservative government has also interfered in the management of major broadcast media, with allies of President Lee Myung-bak receiving senior posts at large media companies over the objections of journalists.’’
North Korea received 97 points, ranking 196th. The press freedom watchdog said the communist state is one among 10 countries in which independent media are either ‘non-existent or barely able to operate.’
``The press acts as a mouthpiece for the regime; citizens’ access to unbiased information is severely limited. Dissent is crushed through imprisonment, torture and other forms of repression,’’ it said.
Finland topped the global press freedom ranking with 10 points, while Norway and Sweden shared the second spot with 11 points.
Freedom House said global media freedom reached a new low point in 2010, resulting in an environment in which only one in every six people live in countries with freedom of press, adding there were particularly worrisome trends in the Middle East and the Americas.