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Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2011/12Reporters Without Borders is publishing annually a worldwide index of countries according to their respect for press freedom.
Access to information is a fundamental human right.Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers. (Article 19, Universal Declaration of Human Rights)
Everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice. (Article 19, UN resolution: International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights; March 1976)
These countries fear the "fourth estate", the power behind the media and the information they might provide. RWB described it years ago: "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."
The lame excuse of the violators: The government knows best what is good for the people, we want to protect our people from bad influence, especially from outside. This argument is supported partly by the UN resolution: The right of information "may therefore be subject to certain restrictions, but these shall only be such as are provided by law and are necessary: (a) For respect of the rights or reputations of others; (b) For the protection of national security or of public order (ordre public), or of public health or morals."
|Reporters Without Borders compiled this Index of 167 countries
by asking its partner organizations and its network of 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. |
Syria, Bahrain and Yemen get worst ever rankings“This year’s index sees many changes in the rankings, changes that reflect a year that was incredibly rich in developments, especially in the Arab world,” Reporters Without Borders said today as it released its 10th annual press freedom index. “Many media paid dearly for their coverage of democratic aspirations or opposition movements. Control of news and information continued to tempt governments and to be a question of survival for totalitarian and repressive regimes. The past year also highlighted the leading role played by netizens in producing and disseminating news. “Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011. Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous. The equation is simple: the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them. “It is no surprise that the same trio of countries, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea, absolute dictatorships that permit no civil liberties, again occupy the last three places in the index. This year, they are immediately preceded at the bottom by Syria, Iran and China, three countries that seem to have lost contact with reality as they have been sucked into an insane spiral of terror, and by Bahrain and Vietnam, quintessential oppressive regimes. Other countries such as Uganda and Belarus have also become much more repressive. “This year’s index finds the same group of countries at its head, countries such as Finland, Norway and Netherlands that respect basic freedoms. This serves as a reminder that media independence can only be maintained in strong democracies and that democracy needs media freedom. It is worth noting the entry of Cape Verde and Namibia into the top twenty, two African countries where no attempts to obstruct the media were reported in 2011.”
Protest movementsThe Arab world was the motor of history in 2011 but the Arab uprisings have had contrasting political outcomes so far, with Tunisia and Bahrain at opposite ends of the scale. Tunisia (134th) rose 30 places in index and, with much suffering, gave birth to a democratic regime that has not yet fully accepted a free and independent press. Bahrain (173rd) fell 29 places because of its relentless crackdown on pro-democracy movements, its trials of human rights defenders and its suppression of all space for freedom. While Libya (154th) turned the page on the Gaddafi era, Yemen succumbed to violence between President Ali Abdallah Saleh’s opponents and supporters and languished in 171st position. The future of both of these countries remains uncertain, and the place they will allow the media is undecided. The same goes for Egypt, which fell 39 places to 166th because the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, in power since February, dashed the hopes of democrats by continuing the Mubarak dictatorship’s practices. There were three periods of exceptional violence for journalists: in February, November and December. Already poorly ranked in 2010, Syria fell further in the index, to 176th position, because total censorship, widespread surveillance, indiscriminate violence and government manipulation made it impossible for journalists to work. Elsewhere in the world, pro-democracy movements that tried to follow the Arab example were ruthlessly suppressed. Many arrests were made in Vietnam (172nd). In China (174th), the government responded to regional and local protests and to public impatience with scandals and acts of injustice by feverishly reinforcing its system of controlling news and information, carrying out extrajudicial arrests and stepping up Internet censorship. There was a dramatic rise in the number of arrests in Azerbaijan (162nd), where Ilham Aliyev’s autocratic government did not hesitate to jail netizens, abduct opposition journalists and bar foreign reporters in order to impose a news blackout on the unrest. Led by President Yoweri Museveni, Uganda (139th) launched an unprecedented crackdown on opposition movements and independent media after the elections in February. Similarly, Chile (80th) fell 47 places because of its many freedom of information violations, committed very often by the security forces during student protests. The United States (47th) also owed its fall of 27 places to the many arrests of journalist covering Occupy Wall Street protests.
Several European countries fall far behind rest of continentThe index has highlighted the divergence of some European countries from the rest of the continent. The crackdown on protests after President Lukashenko’s reelection caused Belarus to fall 14 places to 168th. At a time when it is portraying itself as a regional model, Turkey (148th) took a big step backwards and lost 10 places. Far from carrying out promised reforms, the judicial system launched a wave of arrests of journalists that was without precedent since the military dictatorship. Within the European Union, the index reflects a continuation of the very marked distinction between countries such as Finland and Netherlands that have always had a good evaluation and countries such as Bulgaria (80th), Greece (70th) and Italy (61st) that fail to address the issue of their media freedom violations, above all because of a lack of political will. There was little progress from France, which went from 44th to 38th, or from Spain (39th) and Romania (47th). Media freedom is a challenge that needs addressing more than ever in the Balkans, which want to join the European Union but are suffering the negative effects of the economic crisis.
Endemic violenceMany countries are marked by a culture of violence towards the media that has taken a deep hold. It will be hard to reverse the trends in these countries without an effective fight against impunity. Mexico (149th) and Honduras (135th) are two cases in point. Pakistan (151st) was the world’s deadliest country for journalists for the second year running. Somalia (164th), which has been at war for 20 years, shows no sign of finding a way out of the chaos in which journalists are paying a heavy price. In Iran (175th), hounding and humiliating journalists has been part of officialdom’s political culture for years. The regime feeds on persecution of the media. Iraq (152nd) fell back 22 places and is now worryingly approaching its 2008 position (158th).
Noteworthy changesSouth Sudan, a new nation facing many challenges, has entered the index in a respectable position (111th) for what is a breakaway from one of the worst ranked countries, Sudan (170th). Burma (169th) has a slightly better position than in previous years as a result of political changes in recent months that have raised hopes but need to be confirmed. Niger (29th) achieved the biggest rise in a single year, 75 places, thanks to a successful political transition. It was Africa that also saw the biggest falls in the index. Djibouti, a discreet little dictatorship in the Horn of Africa, fell 49 places to 159th. Malawi (146th) fell 67 places because of the totalitarian tendencies of its president, Bingu Wa Mutharika. Uganda, mentioned above, fell 43 places to 139th. Finally, Côte d’Ivoire fell 41 places to 159th because the media were badly hit by the fighting between the supporters of rival presidents Laurent Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara. One of the biggest falls in Latin America was by Brazil, which plunged 41 places to 99th because the high level of violence resulted in the deaths of three journalists and bloggers.
|9||Cape Verde||Western Africa||-6,00|
|14||Czech Republic||Eastern Europe||-5,00|
|19||Costa Rica||Central America||-2,25|
|28||United Kingdom||Northern Europe||2,00|
|35||Papua New Guinea||Melanesia/Oceania||9,00|
|37||El Salvador||Central America||9,30|
|42||South Africa||Southern Africa||12,00|
|44||South Korea||Eastern Asia||12,67|
|47||United States of America||North America||14,00|
|-||Trinidad and Tobago||Caribbean||15,00|
|57||United States of America (extra-territorial)||North America||19,00|
|-||Bosnia and Herzegovina||Southern Europe||19,50|
|62||Central African Republic||Central Africa||20,00|
|-||Sierra Leone||Western Africa||21,00|
|-||Burkina Faso||Western Africa||23,33|
|90||Congo, ROC||Central Africa||30,38|
|92||Israel (Israeli territory)||Middle East||31,25|
|102||Cyprus (North)||Middle East||37,00|
|111||South Sudan||Central Africa||41,25||nc|
|112||United Arab Emirates||Middle East||45,00|
|133||Israel (extra-territorial)||Middle East||59,00|
|145||Congo, DROC||Central Africa||67,67|
|148||Turkey||Southwestern Asia/Southern Europe||70,00|
|153||Palestinian territories||Middle East||76,00|
|158||Saudi Arabia||Middle East||83,25|
|159||Côte d'Ivoire||Western Africa||83,50|
|161||Equatorial Guinea||Central Africa||86,00|
|163||Sri Lanka||South-Central Asia||87,50|
|165||Lao PDR||South-East Asia||89,00|
|166||Egypt||Northern Africa/Middle East||97,50|
|169||Myanmar (Burma)||South-East Asia||100,00|
|178||North Korea||Eastern Asia||141,00|
|* Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States
Read the full report at Reporters Without Borders
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