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Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad has made it, for the second consecutive year, to the annual list of "10 Worst Enemies of the Press" compiled by the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) today.

Topping the list are Sierra Leone's Foray Sankoh, Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Yugoslavia's Slobodan Milosevic.

On Mahathir, the international journalists body noted that he has governed Malaysia for nearly two decades "owing his longevity in great measure to his control over the media".

According to the CPJ, Mahathir has tightened the screws on the country's small opposition press, following an election in which the opposition made significant gains.

Five newspapers were threatened with closure. The most popular of these, Harakah, was restricted to publishing only twice monthly, while its editor and printer were arrested on sedition charges.

"With all major media owned or controlled by Mahathir's ruling coalition, the Internet is increasingly used as an alternative news source.

"Even as Mahathir vowed not to censor the Internet, one of his deputy ministers warned that 'the government may have to be given the right to enforce regulations on the contents of the Internet'," the statement added.

The New York-based CPJ, an independent, non-profit organisation that works to safeguard press freedom around the world, named these "enemies" whose actions make them personally responsible for the "abysmal press conditions" of their countries.

"These enemies of the press use methods that range from outright torture and murder to more subtle techniques aimed at keeping uncomfortable truths from being told," Ann Cooper, C PJ's executive director, said in a press statement released to mark World Press Freedom Day today.

"In Yugoslavia and Iran, threats are so severe that independent media are in grave danger of becoming extinct in the near future."

Elsewhere, in China and Cuba, she added, opposition voices have used new technology to circumvent restrictions, prompting new reprisals from leaders determined to control information.

Sierra Leone's Santoh is the leader of the Revolutionary United Front, a rebel movement that targeted journalists for murder during his country's civil war.

Khamenei, as supreme leader of Iran, has fostered an anti-reform climate that culminated in the dramatic closings of 16 publications over the past week, CPJ reported.

Milosevic also returns to the list for a second year as he continues his concerted campaign to destroy his country's independent media, the CPJ statement said.

Others mentioned in this year's list are: Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev, Angola's President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, Peru's President Alberto K. Fujimori, Tunisia's President Zine al-Abdine Ben Ali, China's President Jiang Zemin and Cuba's President Fidel Castro.