Last Updated: Thursday, 19 October 2017, 11:48 GMT

Freedom of the Press 2010 - North Korea

Publisher Freedom House
Publication Date 30 September 2010
Cite as Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2010 - North Korea, 30 September 2010, available at: [accessed 19 October 2017]
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Status: Not Free
Legal Environment: 30
Political Environment: 40
Economic Environment: 29
Total Score: 99

Survey Edition20052006200720082009
Total Score, Status97,NF97,NF97,NF98,NF98, NF
  • 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.

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