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Reporters Without Borders is publishing annually a worldwide index of countries according to their respect for press freedom.

Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2005

North Korea, Eritrea and Turkmenistan are the world's "black holes" for news

Western democracies slip back, with the US falling more than 20 places

World Map of Press Freedom

World Map of Press Freedom
North Korea once again comes bottom of the fourth World Press Freedom Index. It is closely followed in the 167-country list by Eritrea (166th) and Turkmenistan (165th), which are other "black holes" for news where the privately-owned media is not allowed and freedom of expression does not exist.

Journalists there simply relay government propaganda. Anyone out of step is harshly dealt with. A word too many,
a commentary that deviates from the official line or a wrongly-spelled name and the author may be thrown in prison or draw the wrath of those in power. Harassment, psychological pressure, intimidation and round-the-clock surveillance are routine.

  Media Independence in the World

East Asia (Burma 163rd, China 159th, Vietnam 158th, Laos 155th), Central Asia (Turkmenistan 165th, Uzbekistan 155th, Afghanistan 125th, Kazakhstan 119th) and the Middle East (Iran 164th, Iraq 157th, Saudi Arabia 154th, Syria 145th) are where journalists have the toughest time and where government repression or armed groups prevent the media operating freely.

The situation in Iraq (157th) deteriorated further during the year as the safety of journalists became more precarious. At least 24 journalists and media assistants have been killed so far this year, making it the mostly deadly conflict for the media since World War II. A total of 72 media workers have been killed since the fighting began in March 2003.

But more and more African and Latin American countries (Benin 25th, Namibia 25th, El Salvador 28th, Cape Verde 29th, Mauritius 34th, Mali 37th, Costa Rica 41st and Bolivia 45th) are getting very good rankings.

Western democracies slip back

Some Western democracies slipped down the Index. The United States (44th) fell more than 20 places, mainly because of the imprisonment of New York Times reporter Judith Miller and legal moves undermining the privacy of journalistic sources. Canada (21st) also dropped several places due to decisions that weakened the privacy of sources and sometimes turned journalists into "court auxiliaries." France (30th) also slipped, largely because of searches of media offices, interrogations of journalists and introduction of new press offences.

At the top of the Index once again are northern European countries Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands, where robust press freedom is firmly established. The top 10 countries are all European. New Zealand (12th), Trinidad and Tobago (12th), Benin (25th) and South Korea (34th) are the highest-ranked countries in other continents.

Press freedom, economic development and independence

Countries that have recently won their independence or have recovered it are very observant of press freedom and give the lie to the insistence of many authoritarian leaders that democracy takes decades to establish itself. Nine states that have had independence (or recovered it within the past 15 years) are among the top 60 countries - Slovenia (9th), Estonia (11th), Latvia (16th), Lithuania (21st), Namibia (25th), Bosnia-Herzegovina (33rd), Macedonia (43rd), Croatia (56th) and East Timor (58th).
The Index also contradicts the frequent argument by leaders of poor and repressive countries that economic development is a vital precondition for democracy and respect for human rights. The top of the Index is heavily dominated by rich countries, but several very poor ones (with a per capita GDP of less than $1,000 in 2003) are among the top 60, such as Benin (25th), Mali (37th), Bolivia (45th), Mozambique (49th), Mongolia (53rd), Niger (57th) and East Timor (58th).


Two reasons for improvement

More African countries are moving up into the top half of the index each year thanks to their progress in the fight against impunity and the abolition of prison terms for press offences such as libel and slander and the printing of inaccurate news.

While those that usually respect press freedom - Cape Verde (29th), South Africa (31st), Mauritius (34th) and Mali (37th) - kept their positions in 2005, Mozambique jumped from 64th to 49th place. Heavy sentences passed on the killers of Mozambican journalist Carlos Cardoso helped to calm a situation which was difficult in the late 1990s. Decriminalisation of press offences in the Central African Republic lifted the country from 104th to 82nd place and Angola (76th) also improved its ranking further due to legal reforms as it emerged from a long civil war.

Continued failure to punish the murderers of Norbert Zongo in Burkina Faso (78th) and unfulfilled promises of decriminalisation by President Abdoulaye Wade in Senegal (79th) prevented these countries from moving up, though the situation was worse in Cameroon (83rd), where journalists are still routinely thrown in prison. Internationally-observed elections allowed Guinea-Bissau (71st) and Liberia (83rd) to move up slightly.

Continuing violence

Unjust laws and repressive governments held back some countries where there is genuine news diversity, such as Madagascar (97th), Guinea (102nd), Kenya (109th), Chad (109th), Mauritania (127th) and Ethiopia (131st).
Press freedom sharply deteriorated in some countries. Gambia, with general mistrust between media and government in recent years, dropped to 130th place because of the unpunished murder of journalist Deyda Hydara and the increasingly hostile attitude to the media by President Yahya Jammeh. In Sierra Leone (126th), political and police violence against journalists worsened an already bad situation with the murder of Harry Yansaneh, who replaced the jailed Paul Kamara as editor of the daily paper For Di People.

Despite efforts by journalists to defend themselves in Somalia (149th), the country is still one the continent's most dangerous places for the media and has not managed to emerge from general disorder. Two women journalists, the BBC's Kate Peyton and Duniya Muhiyadin Nur, of the radio station HornAfrik, were killed during the year in Mogadishu.

Pervasive violence and repression, backed by often absurd laws, prevented any improvement in the ranking of the Democratic Republic of Congo (146th). Zimbabwe (153rd) meanwhile continued downward, with one of the continent's most ruthless regimes facing a courageous but poorly-equipped independent press. In Eritrea, which at (166th) is bottom-but-one of the world ranking, press freedom has not existed since 18 September 2001, when the privately-owned media was abolished.

The Americas

Breaking away

In terms of press freedom, the small Caribbean state of Trinidad and Tobago (12th) is still the region's top-ranked country. El Salvador (28th)-a still-fragile democracy after years of civil war-came in second, followed, as it was last year, by Costa Rica (41st), Bolivia (45th), Uruguay (46th) and Chile (50th), where attacks on press freedom usually amount to intimidation and threats.

Argentina (59th) rose sharply in the Index because there were fewer physical attacks on journalists, the media won a fight to preserve source confidentiality and the press offense laws were relaxed.
The press law in Brazil (63rd)-which dates from the military dictatorship and provides for imprisonment-has yet to be repealed, even though it is no longer enforced. The local media is also still the target of violent reprisals, such as the murder July 1 of community radio director José Cândido Amorim Pinto.

No journalists were killed this year in Peru (116th) but violence against journalists has soared to more than 30 incidents-60 in all, if we include incidents involving threats and intimidation.

Journalists face high-risk working conditions in Haiti (117th), despite the greater press freedom enjoyed since former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in February 2004. Jacques Roche, of the daily paper Le Matin, was murdered on July 14, and Nancy Roc of Radio Metropole was forced to seek asylum abroad on June 16 after she was given kidnapping threats. Her radio station manager, Richard Widmaier, had narrowly escaped a kidnapping attempt five days earlier.

Colombia (128th), second to last among American continent countries, moved up this year ahead of Mexico (135th), as press freedom is deteriorating in countries bordering the US. The Mexican media have been focusing on a "Black April," when two journalists were murdered and a third disappeared in just one week. In Colombia, Julio Palacios Sánchez of Radio Lemas, was shot dead on January 11 in a region dominated by drug traffic and riddled with corruption. So far this year, broadcasting equipment has been routinely sabotaged and seven journalists have had to flee the region or the country.

Two more journalists were jailed in Cuba (161st), in addition to the 21 who have been held since the March 2003 crackdown. One of them, Oscar Mario González Pérez, faces 20 years in prison under Law 88, passed to protect "national independence and the economy."

Reporters Without Borders compiled this Index of 167 countries by asking its partner organizations (14 freedom of expression groups from around the world) and its network of 130 correspondents, as well as journalists, researchers, legal experts and human rights activists, to answer 50 questions designed to assess a country's level of press freedom. Some countries are not mentioned for lack of information about them.
Rank Country Score
1 Denmark 0,50
- Finland 0,50
- Iceland 0,50
- Ireland 0,50
- Netherlands 0,50
- Norway 0,50
- Switzerland 0,50
8 Slovakia 0,75
9 Czech Republic 1,00
- Slovenia 1,00
11 Estonia 1,50
12 Hungary 2,00
- New Zealand 2,00
- Sweden 2,00
- Trinidad and Tobago 2,00
16 Austria 2,50
- Latvia 2,50
18 Belgium 4,00
- Germany 4,00
- Greece 4,00
21 Canada 4,50
- Lithuania 4,50
23 Portugal 4,83
24 United Kingdom 5,17
25 Benin 5,50
- Cyprus 5,50
- Namibia 5,50
28 El Salvador 5,75
29 Cape Verde 6,00
30 France 6,25
31 Australia 6,50
- South Africa 6,50
33 Bosnia and Herzegovina 7,00
34 Jamaica 7,50
- Mauritius 7,50
- South Korea 7,50
37 Japan 8,00
- Mali 8,00
39 Hong-Kong 8,25
40 Spain 8,33
41 Costa Rica 8,50
42 Italy 8,67
43 Macedonia 8,75
44 United States of America (American territory) 9,50
45 Bolivia 9,67
46 Uruguay 9,75
47 Israel 10,00
48 Bulgaria 10,25
49 Mozambique 10,50
50 Chile 11,75
51 Dominican Republic 12,25
- Taiwan 12,25
53 Cyprus (North) 12,50
- Mongolia 12,50
- Poland 12,50
56 Croatia 12,83
57 Niger 13,00
58 Timor-Leste 13,50
59 Argentina 13,67
60 Botswana 14,00
- Fiji 14,00
62 Albania 14,17
63 Brazil 14,50
- Tonga 14,50
65 Serbia and Montenegro 14,83
66 Ghana 15,00
- Panama 15,00
68 Nicaragua 15,25
69 Paraguay 15,50
70 Romania 16,17
71 Congo 17,00
- Guinea-Bissau 17,00
- Seychelles 17,00
74 Moldova 17,50
- Tanzania 17,50
76 Angola 18,00
- Honduras 18,00
78 Burkina Faso 19,00
- Senegal 19,00
80 Uganda 19,25
81 Lesotho 19,50
82 Central African Republic 19,75
83 Cameroon 20,50
- Liberia 20,50
85 Kuwait 21,25
86 Guatemala 21,50
87 Ecuador 21,75
88 Comoros 22,00
89 Malawi 22,75
90 Burundi 23,00
- Cambodia 23,00
- Qatar 23,00
- Venezuela 23,00
- Zambia 23,00
95 Togo 23,75
96 Jordan 24,00
97 Madagascar 24,50
98 Turkey 25,00
99 Georgia 25,17
100 Kosovo 25,75
- United Arab Emirates 25,75
102 Armenia 26,00
- Gabon 26,00
- Guinea 26,00
- Indonesia 26,00
106 India 27,00
107 Thailand 28,00
108 Lebanon 28,25
109 Chad 30,00
- Kenya 30,00
111 Kyrgyzstan 32,00
112 Ukraine 32,50
113 Malaysia 33,00
- Tajikistan 33,00
115 Sri Lanka 33,25
116 Peru 33,33
117 Haiti 33,50
118 Swaziland 35,00
119 Kazakhstan 36,17
- Morocco 36,17
121 Djibouti 37,00
122 Rwanda 38,00
123 Bahrein 38,75
- Nigeria 38,75
125 Afghanistan 39,17
126 Sierra Leone 39,50
127 Mauritania 40,00
128 Colombia 40,17
129 Algeria 40,33
130 Gambia 41,00
131 Ethiopia 42,00
132 Palestinian Authority 42,50
133 Equatorial Guinea 44,00
- Sudan 44,00
135 Mexico 45,50
136 Yemen 46,25
137 United States of America (in Iraq) 48,50
138 Russia 48,67
139 Philippines 50,00
140 Singapore 50,67
141 Azerbaijan 51,00
142 Bhutan 51,50
143 Egypt 52,00
144 Côte d'Ivoire 52,25
145 Syria 55,00
146 Congo, Democratic Rep. of 57,33
147 Tunisia 57,50
148 Maldives 58,50
149 Somalia 59,00
150 Pakistan 60,75
151 Bangladesh 61,25
152 Belarus 61,33
153 Zimbabwe 64,25
154 Saudi Arabia 66,00
155 Lao PDR 66,50
- Uzbekistan 66,50
157 Iraq 67,00
158 Vietnam 73,25
159 China 83,00
160 Nepal 86,75
161 Cuba 87,00
162 Libya 88,75
163 Burma 88,83
164 Iran 89,17
165 Turkmenistan 93,50
166 Eritrea 99,75
167 North Korea 109,00

Read the full report at Reporters Without Borders

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