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Press freedom index rates Iran low

PARIS, Oct. 20 (UPI) -- Reporters Without Borders says Iranian journalists continue to suffer under President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad's administration.

Published Tuesday, the group's eighth annual Press Freedom Index focused on press freedom violations from Sept. 1, 2008, to Aug. 31. The report rated Iran 172 in the index out of a total of 175 countries surveyed.

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Turkmenistan was rated at 173, North Korea at 174 and Eritrea at 175 because "the media are so suppressed they are non-existent" in these countries, the report said.

The Top 5 countries listed in the report were Denmark at No. 1, followed by Finland, Ireland, Norway and Sweden.

Operation Cast Lead in Gaza caused Israel to drop 47 places to 93. The organization said Israel "lost its place at the head of the Middle Eastern countries," falling behind Kuwait, which was rated 60, Lebanon at 61 and the United Arab Emirates at 86.

The report said about 20 journalists were injured and three killed by Israeli military forces during the Gaza military offensive early this year. The report also said Israeli military censorship during the Gaza operation also threatened journalists.

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The report said the United States climbed 20 places from 40th to 20th in the last year.

The index is compiled annually and based on questionnaires completed by hundreds of journalists and media experts around the world, the organization said.

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