Score: 21.72 // Status: Very difficult

180 – North Korea

The Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), one of the most authoritarian regimes in the world, tightly controls news and strictly prohibits independent journalism.

The Korean Central Press Agency (KCNA), the official government mouthpiece, is the only authorized source of information for the press in North Korea. The regime tightly controls the production and distribution of information and strictly prohibits independent journalism. Some foreign news agencies, such as Agence France-Presse (AFP) and Kyodo News, are officially present in the country, but operate under close surveillance, which hampers their reporting capabilities.

Kim Jong-un, son and grandson of the late dictators Kim Jong-il and Kim Il-sung, is the supreme leader of a totalitarian regime that bases its power on surveillance, repression, censorship and propaganda. He personally ensures that the press broadcasts only content that glorifies the party, the army and himself.

Article 67 of the North Korean constitution provides for freedom of the press, but the regime systematically disregards this principle.

North Korea's economy is centralized and planned, but, after a series of economic management problems over recent years, the State has had to reduce its control over the private economy. More than 400 private markets (jangmadang) have developed across the country, facilitating the transmission of information between citizens. Very popular South Korean films and TV series are disseminated via USB sticks, despite the serious sanctions that apply to people caught in the act of consuming external information.

The regime allowed the widespread use of mobile phones, including smartphones, but developed techniques that allow almost absolute control of communications within the national intranet. Simply consulting a media outlet based abroad can lead to a stay in a concentration camp.

Due to the regime's desire to completely isolate itself from the world, journalists have been arrested, deported, sent to labour camps, and killed for deviating from the party's narrative. In 2017, the government even sentenced South Korean journalists to death in absentia for mere comments on the country's economic and social situation.