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N. Korea, Myanmar top media censors, watchdog says

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, May 3 (Reuters) North Korea, Myanmar and Turkmenistan lead the list of countries with the world's most censored media, a press watchdog group reported.

Others on the list of the 10 ''most censored'' nations compiled by the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists were Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, Syria and Uzbekistan.

The group, which regularly monitors press freedom in over 100 countries, said it based its choices on 17 benchmarks such as state media ownership and jamming of private broadcasts.

The list was released to mark World Press Freedom Day, observed today.

In all 10 countries, there is heavy state control or influence of the media, and most are governed by autocrats who use control of the media to suppress opposition voices in an effort to remain in power, said CPJ executive director Ann Cooper.

All 10 also have ''zero tolerance for negative coverage'' and a disregard for their citizens' welfare, Cooper told a news conference, citing as examples a total lack of coverage of famine in North Korea and a December 2005 tsunami in Myanmar.

In Myanmar, listening to the British Broadcasting Corp.

could lead to arrest. In North Korea, all ''news'' is positive as disseminated by the rigidly state-controlled media, the group said.

Libya also has no independent broadcast or print media while in Equatorial Guinea, there is just one private broadcast outlet, owned by the son of President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, the watchdog said.

In Turkmenistan, President Saparmurat Niyazov's image is constantly displayed at the bottom of television screens.

More than a dozen foreign correspondents had to flee Uzbekistan after covering a May 2005 massacre of up to 800 people in Andizhan.

Journalists covering opposition to Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko's reelection were jailed on charges such as hooliganism.

Cuban media operate under the Communist Party's Department of Revolutionary Orientation and the government there is one of the world's leading jailers of journalists, the group said.

There are also no private media in Eritrea, leaving the country ''largely hidden from international scrutiny and with almost no local access to independent information,'' CPJ said.

In Syria, the only outlets in private hands are owned by regime loyalists or barred from offering political news.

Reuters CH VP0905

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