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China, 6 Other Asian Countries Labeled 'Worst' for Press Freedom - 2003-10-20

A new report shows China and six other Asian countries were among the worst for protecting freedom of the press in 2002. The report by the Paris-based group, Reporters Without Borders, was issued Monday. It puts North Korea last among 166 countries surveyed for press freedom. Just above North Korea's bottom position are Burma, Laos, China and Vietnam in East Asia, Bhutan in South Asia, and Turkmenistan in Central Asia.

In its report, Reporters Without Borders said independent news media in those countries are either non-existent or are constantly repressed by authorities. The group also notes that several journalists have been imprisoned in Burma and China.

In addition to the Asian countries, Iran, Cuba and Eritrea also are near the bottom of the press-freedom list.

The report says 26 independent journalists were arrested in Cuba earlier this year and sentenced to prison terms ranging from 14 to 27 years. It called Cuba the world's biggest prison for journalists.

Reporters Without Borders says it polled journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists in order to come up with this survey.

The countries with the best record for press freedom on the list are Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark. The United States is ranked 31st on the list.