The United Nations Special Rapporteur on the DPRK has called for increased freedom of information and access to independent media for the people of North Korea. The calls came in a 76-point report submitted on Feb. 21, 2011, to the UN’s Human Rights Council.
The rapporteur, Marzuki Darusman, met with defectors, politicians and others in South Korea and Japan when compiling the report. Darusman previously served as Indonsia’s Attorney General and was a member of the country’s National Commission of Human Rights.
In the report, he covers access to independent and international media, Internet access, press freedom and the dangers associated with using illicit mobile phones:
Freedom of opinion and expression
46. The Special Rapporteur notes with concern that there seems to be continued Government imposition of restrictions on the media and punishment of any form of association and expression that is deemed hostile towards the Government. There are no known independent opposition political parties or NGOs in the country. Independent media, the liberty to run NGOs and access to international reporters, which are currently nonexistent in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, are all essential in an open society.
47. Furthermore, Internet access is restricted to a few thousand people and, currently, the international Internet network is accessible only by a small minority, a few high-ranking officials and foreign diplomats via a satellite link with servers based abroad.22 The Intranet is accessible only by academics, businessmen and high-ranking civil servants with special clearance.
48. It is dismal that the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea ranks 177 out of 178 countries in one NGO 2010 press freedom index,23 which shows the scope for improvement on freedom of opinion and expression. The extent of restriction on the freedom of opinion and expression is demonstrated by the nature of punishment placed on journalists. In the last few months, it has been reported that two North Korean journalists died in 2001 in Yoduk “Kwan-li-so” No. 15, a prison camp located in the east of the country. This has only come to light in the recent days through a former political prisoner.
49. In speaking to the asylum-seekers in the Republic of Korea, the Special Rapporteur was also made aware of the risks some of the asylum-seekers undertake by using mobile phones, especially while trying to liaise with traffickers in order to leave the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. The defectors in Japan who met with the Special Rapporteur expressed similar concerns regarding restrictions on and, in many cases, the total absence of
freedom of opinion and expression. Some of them claimed they were not even in a position to express their worsening living standards and that the only manner in which they learnt about the outside world was from smuggled DVDs and video CDs.
50. The Special Rapporteur calls upon the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea to allow space for participation in Government, freedom of expression, access to information, freedom of association, as provided and recognized in the Constitution and related laws of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea and international standards.