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April 1, 2020 - Updated on April 3, 2020

As doubt persists on North Korea’s “zero” coronavirus cases, RSF urges for transparency

As North Korea still reports “zero” coronavirus cases despite evidence suggesting cases in the thousands, RSF exhorts the regime to allow international media to investigate on the topic.

As the coronavirus pandemic spreads across the globe, North Korean authorities still remarkably report  “zero” cases despite sharing borders with China and South Korea, previous virus hotspots. In early March, state-run media Rodong Sinmun reported that thousands of people were under medical monitoring for symptoms that closely resembled the coronavirus. Although not officially touched by the pandemic, North Korea has also recently asked for foreign aid in its fight against the virus.


RSF exhorts the regime to save lives by being fully transparent and to allow the international media to investigate on the topic.


“As the North Korean authorities ask for assistance to contain the coronavirus, they must allow the international community to fully understand the extent of the situation and the amount of support they need,” said Cédric Alviani, Reporters Without Border (RSF) East Asia Bureau head, who also called the the regime to “put an end to the media blackout.”


With almost complete control over all communications and media, North Korea’s totalitarian regime, led by Kim Jong-un, keeps its citizens in a state of ignorance. Despite the presence of foreign press agencies, namely Agence-France Presse (AFP), Associated Press (AP) and Kyodo News Agency, international media is under strict supervision and independent reporting remains nearly impossible.


North Korea ranked 179th out of 180 in the 2019 RSF World Press Freedom Index.