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Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2011/12

Reporters 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)

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This right is heavily violated in many countries, through censorship and suppression of information, by oppression and persecution of journalists and the media. State control of domestic media, and internet control are their favored means.
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 movements

The 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 continent

The 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 violence

Many 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 changes

South 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.
Rank   Country Region Score 
Finland Northern Europe -10,00 ==
Norway Northern Europe -10,00 ==
Estonia Northern Europe -9,00 up-one
Netherlands Western Europe -9,00 down-one
Austria Western Europe -8,00 up-one
Iceland Northern Europe -7,00 down-one
Luxembourg Western Europe -7,00 up-one
Switzerland Western Europe -6,20 down-one
Cape Verde Western Africa -6,00 up-two
Canada North America -5,67 up
Denmark Northern Europe -5,67 up-one
Sweden Northern Europe -5,50 down-two
New Zealand Australia/Oceania -5,33 down-one
Czech Republic Eastern Europe -5,00 up-one
Ireland Northern Europe -4,00 down-one
Cyprus Middle East -3,00 up-one
Jamaica Caribbean -3,00 up
Germany Western Europe -3,00 up-one
Costa Rica Central America -2,25 up
Belgium Western Europe -2,00 down-one
Namibia Southern Africa -2,00 up-one
Japan Eastern Asia -1,00 down-two
Suriname South America -1,00 up
Poland Eastern Europe -0,67 up-one
Mali Western Africa 0,00 up-one
OECS * Caribbean 0,00 up
Slovakia Eastern Europe 0,00 up
United Kingdom Northern Europe 2,00 down-one
Niger Western Africa 2,50 up
Australia Australia/Oceania 4,00 down-two
Lithuania Northern Europe 4,00 down-two
Uruguay South America 4,25 up-one
Portugal Southern Europe 5,33 up-one
Tanzania Eastern Africa 6,00 up-one
Papua New Guinea Melanesia/Oceania 9,00 up-one
Slovenia Southern Europe 9,14 up
El Salvador Central America 9,30 up
France Western Europe 9,50 up-one
Spain Southern Europe 9,75 ==
Hungary Eastern Europe 10,00 down-two
Ghana Western Africa 11,00 down-two
South Africa Southern Africa 12,00 down-one
Botswana Southern Africa 12,00 up
South Korea Eastern Asia 12,67 down-one
Comoros Eastern Africa 13,00 up
Taiwan Eastern Asia 13,00 up-one
United States of America North America 14,00 down-two
Argentina South America 14,00 down-two
Romania Eastern Europe 14,00 up-one
Latvia Northern Europe 15,00 down-two
Trinidad and Tobago Caribbean 15,00 down-two
Haiti Caribbean 15,67 up-one
Moldova Eastern Europe 16,00 up
Hong-Kong Eastern Asia 17,00 down-two
Mauritius Eastern Africa 17,00 up
Samoa Australia/Oceania 17,00 up
United States of America (extra-territorial) North America 19,00 up
Malta Southern Europe 19,50 down-two
Bosnia and Herzegovina Southern Europe 19,50 up-one
Guyana South America 19,50 down-two
Italy Southern Europe 19,67 down-two
Central African Republic Central Africa 20,00 up-one
Lesotho Southern Africa 21,00 up
Sierra Leone Western Africa 21,00 up
Tonga Polynesia/Oceania 21,00 up
Mozambique Eastern Africa 21,50 up
Mauritania Western Africa 22,20 up
Croatia Southern Europe 23,33 down-two
Burkina Faso Western Africa 23,33 down-one
Bhutan South-Central Asia 24,00 down-one
Greece Southern Europe 24,00 ==
Nicaragua Central America 24,33 up
Maldives South-Central Asia 25,00 down-two
Seychelles Eastern Africa 25,00 down-one
Guinea-Bissau Western Africa 26,00 down-one
Senegal Western Africa 26,00 up
Armenia Western Asia 27,00 up
Kuwait Middle East 28,00 up-one
Togo Western Africa 28,50 down-two
Serbia Southern Europe 29,00 down-two
Bulgaria Eastern Europe 29,00 down-two
Chile South America 29,00 down-one
Paraguay South America 29,00 down-two
Kenya Eastern Africa 29,50 down-two
Madagascar Eastern Africa 29,50 up
Guinea Western Africa 30,00 up
-   Kosovo Southern Europe 30,00 up-one
Timor-Leste Australia/Oceania 30,00 up-one
Zambia Eastern Africa 30,00 down-one
Congo, ROC Central Africa 30,38 up
Benin Western Africa 31,00 down-two
Israel (Israeli territory) Middle East 31,25 down-one
Lebanon Middle East 31,50 down-two
Macedonia Southern Europe 31,67 down-two
Dominican Republic Caribbean 33,25 up-one
Albania Southern Europe 34,44 down-two
Cameroon Central Africa 35,00 up
Guatemala Central America 35,00 down-two
Brazil South America 35,33 down-two
Mongolia Eastern Asia 35,75 down-two
Gabon Central Africa 36,50 up-one
Cyprus (North) Middle East 37,00 down-two
Chad Central Africa 37,67 up-one
Ecuador South America 38,00 down-one
Georgia Western Asia 38,00 down-one
Nepal South-Central Asia 38,75 up
Montenegro Southern Europe 39,00 down-one
Bolivia South America 40,00 down-one
Kyrgyzstan South-Central Asia 40,00 up
Liberia Western Africa 40,50 down-two
South Sudan Central Africa 41,25 nc
United Arab Emirates Middle East 45,00 down-two
Panama Central America 45,67 down-two
Qatar Middle East 46,00 up-one
Peru South America 51,25 down-one
Ukraine Eastern Europe 54,00 up
Cambodia South-East Asia 55,00 up
Fiji Australia/Oceania 55,00 up
Oman Middle East 55,00 up-one
Venezuela South America 55,00 up
Zimbabwe Eastern Africa 55,00 up-one
Algeria Northern Africa 56,00 up
Tajikistan South-Central Asia 56,00 up
Malaysia South-East Asia 56,00 up
Brunei South-East Asia 56,20 up
Nigeria Western Africa 56,40 up
Ethiopia Eastern Africa 56,60 up
Jordan Middle East 56,80 down-one
Bangladesh South-Central Asia 57,00 down-one
Burundi Eastern Africa 57,75 down-two
India South-Central Asia 58,00 down-one
Angola Central Africa 58,43 down-two
Israel (extra-territorial) Middle East 59,00 down-one
Tunisia Northern Africa 60,25 up
Singapore South-East Asia 61,00 up-one
Honduras Central America 61,00 up-one
Thailand South-East Asia 61,50 up
Morocco Northern Africa 63,29 down-one
Uganda Eastern Africa 64,00 down-two
Philippines South-East Asia 64,50 up
Gambia Western Africa 65,50 down-two
Russia Northern Asia/Europe 66,00 down-one
Colombia South America 66,50 up
Swaziland Southern Africa 67,00 up
Congo, DROC Central Africa 67,67 up-one
Indonesia South-East Asia 68,00 down-two
Malawi Eastern Africa 68,00 down-two
Turkey Southwestern Asia/Southern Europe 70,00 down
Mexico North America 72,67 down-two
Afghanistan South-Central Asia 74,00 down-one
Pakistan South-Central Asia 75,00 ==
Iraq Middle East 75,36 down-two
Palestinian territories Middle East 76,00 down-one
Kazakhstan South-Central Asia 77,50 up-one
Libya Northern Africa 77,50 up-one
Rwanda Eastern Africa 81,00 up
Uzbekistan South-Central Asia 83,00 up-one
Saudi Arabia Middle East 83,25 down-one
Côte d'Ivoire Western Africa 83,50 down-two
Djibouti Eastern Africa 83,50 down-two
Equatorial Guinea Central Africa 86,00 up-one
Azerbaijan Western Asia 87,25 down-two
Sri Lanka South-Central Asia 87,50 down-one
Somalia Eastern Africa 88,33 down-one
Lao PDR South-East Asia 89,00 up-one
Egypt Northern Africa/Middle East 97,50 down-two
Cuba Caribbean 98,83 down-one
Belarus Eastern Europe 99,00 down-two
Myanmar (Burma) South-East Asia 100,00 up-one
Sudan Northern Africa 100,75 up-one
Yemen Middle East 101,00 down-one
Vietnam South-East Asia 114,00 down-one
Bahrain Middle East 125,00 down
China Eastern Asia 136,00 down-one
Iran Middle East 136,60 ==
Syria Middle East 138,00 down-one
Turkmenistan South-Central Asia 140,67 down-one
North Korea Eastern Asia 141,00 down-one
Eritrea Eastern Africa 142,00 down-one
* Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States

Read the full report at Reporters Without Borders
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External Links:

Reporters Without Borders
Official website of the non-profit organization.

Freedom House - Freedom of the Press 2016
Freedom House annual report on freedom of the press.

OAS - Organization of American States
OAS on Information & Democracy.  

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