A U.S. - based human rights watchdog says press freedom declined worldwide last year due to legal harassment, political pressure and violence by both governments and private citizens.
In a report released Wednesday, Freedom House says Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea and Turkmenistan were the worst rated countries in terms of press freedom in 2003.
The group also noted sharp declines in press freedom in such countries as Russia, Bolivia, Bulgaria, Italy, Morocco and the Philippines.
The report notes that press freedom improved in Kenya and Sierra Leone. But overall, it says, the proportion of the world's population living in countries with free media declined by five percent over the past two years.
In general, Freedom House says the Middle East-North Africa region has the least media freedom, with 90 percent of the countries rated "not free." The group says the Americas feature the most media freedom.