20 October 2005 -- A media watchdog group says press freedom is being eroded in parts of the Western world and failing to advance in Iraq, but making progress in other states emerging from repression.
Reporters Without Borders, in its 2005 annual press freedom index, again puts North Korea at the bottom of the global list, in 167th position. Turkmenistan also got some of the lowest marks, with a ranking of 165th.
The 10 top-ranked countries were all European, with Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, and Switzerland getting the highest ratings.
The Paris-based watchdog said Middle Eastern countries are among states where journalists have the toughest time with authorities, and where government repression or armed groups prevent the media from operating freely.
Reporters Without Borders ranked the United States Army in Iraq 137th on the list, saying it was responsible for violations of press freedom, as in 2003 and 2004.
The group said the media situation in Iraq deteriorated further during the year, with at least 24 journalists or assistants being killed and making Iraq the mostly deadly conflict for the media since World War II.
Iraq was ranked 157th on the freedom index.
Iran, ranked 164th, once again had the Middle East's worst record of press freedom.
The United States, ranked 44th, fell more than 20 places in this year's survey, mostly due to the jailing of a "New York Times" reporter in a scandal over the leak of a CIA operative's name.
Countries that have recently won or regained their independence are among the top 60 countries -- including Slovenia (9), Estonia (11), Latvia (16), Lithuania (21), Bosnia-Hercegovina (33), Macedonia (43), and Croatia (56).