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Asia, Mideast last in press freedom

China ranks poorly for press freedom.
Justice and Rights
Civil Rights
Middle East

(CNN) -- East Asian and Middle Eastern nations rank as the worst in the world for press freedom while northern European countries such as Denmark were the best, according to a report released Wednesday by media organization Reporters Without Borders.

North Korea, Myanmar, Vietnam and China were in the bottom 10 of the list of 167 nations in the latest annual review by the Paris, France-based group.

"In these countries, an independent media either does not exist or journalists are persecuted and censored on a daily basis. Freedom of information and the safety of journalists are not guaranteed," the group said.

A recent fact-finding mission to North Korea found journalists there were forced to serve the personality cult of dictator Kim Jong Il and "dozens of reporters had been ''re-educated' for minor professional "errors."

Other nations in the bottom 10 were Cuba, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, Iran, Eritrea and Nepal.

What was also surprising, however, was the poor performance of Western democratic nations such as Australia and the United States which ranked 41st and 22nd respectively.

The media watchdog slammed Canberra for its policies restricting media access to asylum seekers being held in the nation's detention camps.

The report pointed to the January 2002 arrest of an Australian Broadcasting Corporation reporter who was charged with trespass while trying to report on hunger-strikers the Woomera Detention Center in South Australia.

Legal action by corporations to try and force reporters and news organizations to reveal story sources was also attacked.

Referring to the United States, "violations of the privacy of sources, persistent problems in granting press visas and the arrest of several journalists during anti-Bush demonstrations" were responsible for the lower ranking there.

Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, the Netherlands and Norway were the best nations for media freedoms, the report said.

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