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RSF releases Press Freedom Index 2010

21. October 2010. | 05:05 05:46

Source: Emg.rs

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published its ninth annual World Press Freedom Index today, with a mixed bag of what secretary-general Jean François Julliard calls “welcome surprises” and “sombre realities”.

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published its ninth annual World Press Freedom Index today, with a mixed bag of what secretary-general Jean François Julliard calls “welcome surprises” and “sombre realities”.

Six countries, all in Europe, share the top spot this year — Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland — described as the “engines of press freedom”. But over half of the European Union’s member states lie outside the top 20, with some significantly lower entries, such as Romania in 52nd place and Greece and Bulgaria tied at 70th. The report expresses grave concerns that the EU will lose its status as world leader on human rights issues if so many of its members continue to fall down the rankings.

The edges of Europe fared particularly badly this year; Ukraine (131st) and Turkey (138th) have fallen to “historically low” rankings, and despite a rise of 13 places, Russia remains in the worst 25 per cent of countries at 140th. It ranks lower than Zimbabwe, which continues to make steady — albeit fragile — progress, rising to 123rd.

At the very bottom of the table lie Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan, as they have done since the index first began in 2002. Along with Yemen, China, Sudan, Syria, Burma and Iran, they makes up the group of worst offenders, characterised by “persecution of the media” and a “complete lack of news and information”. RSF says it is getting harder and harder to distinguish between these lowest ten countries, who continue to deteriorate. There are particular fears about the situation for journalists in Burma ahead of next month’s parliamentary election.

Another country creating cause for concern in the run-up to elections is Azerbaijan, falling six places to 152nd. Index on Censorship recently joined other organisations in a visit to Baku to assess the health of the country’s media. You can read about their findings in a joint mission report, ‘Free Expression under Attack: Azerbaijan’s Deteriorating Media Environment’, launching this Thursday, 28 October, 6.30 pm, at the Free Word Centre. Belarus, another country on which Index is campaigning, languishes at 154th.

It is worth noting, though, that relative press freedom rankings can only tell so much. Cuba, for example, has risen out of the bottom 20 countries for the first time, partly thanks to its release of 14 journalists and 22 activists this summer, but journalists still face censorship and repression “on a daily basis”. Similarly, countries such as South Korea and Gabon have climbed more than 20 places, only to return to the position they held before a particularly bad 2009. It seems, then, that the struggle for press freedom across the world must continue to be a “battle of vigilance”.

TOP 10 countries;

1. Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden Switzerland
7. Austria
8. New Zealand
9. Estonia, Ireland

Last 10 countries;

169. Rwanda
170. Yemen
171. China
172. Sudan
173. Syria
174. Burma
175. Iran
176. Turkmenistan
177. North Korea
178. Eritrea

Europe falls from its pedestal, no respite in the dictatorships
“Our latest world press freedom index contains welcome surprises, highlights sombre realities and confirms certain trends,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-François Julliard said as his organisation issued its ninth annual index today. “More than ever before, we see that economic development, institutional reform and respect for fundamental rights do not necessarily go hand in hand. The defence of media freedom continues to be a battle, a battle of vigilance in the democracies of old Europe and a battle against oppression and injustice in the totalitarian regimes still scattered across the globe.

“We must salute the engines of press freedom, with Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland at their head. We must also pay homage to the human rights activists, journalists and bloggers throughout the world who bravely defend the right to speak out. Their fate is our constant concern. We reiterate our call for the release of Liu Xiaobo, the symbol of the pressure for free speech building up in China, which censorship for the time being is still managing to contain. And we warn the Chinese authorities against taking a road from which there is no way out.

“It is disturbing to see several European Union member countries continuing to fall in the index. If it does not pull itself together, the European Union risks losing its position as world leader in respect for human rights. And if that were to happen, how could it be convincing when it asked authoritarian regimes to make improvements? There is an urgent need for the European countries to recover their exemplary status.

“We are also worried by the harsher line being taken by governments at the other end of the index. Rwanda, Yemen and Syria have joined Burma and North Korea in the group of the world’s most repressive countries towards journalists. This does not bode well for 2011. Unfortunately, the trend in the most authoritarian countries is not one of improvement.”

European Union loses its leadership status

Reporters Without Borders has repeatedly expressed its concern about the deteriorating press freedom situation in the European Union and the 2010 index confirms this trend. Thirteen of the EU’s 27 members are in the top 20 but some of the other 14 are very low in the ranking. Italy is 49th, Romania is 52nd and Greece and Bulgaria are tied at 70th. The European Union is not a homogenous whole as regards media freedom. On the contrary, the gap between good and bad performers continues to widen.

There has been no progress in several countries where Reporters Without Borders pointed out problems. They include, above all, France and Italy, where events of the past year – violation of the protection of journalists’ sources, the continuing concentration of media ownership, displays of contempt and impatience on the part of government officials towards journalists and their work, and judicial summonses – have confirmed their inability to reverse this trend.

Northern Europe still at the top

Several countries share first place in the index again. This year it is Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. They have all previously held this honour since the index was created in 2002. Norway and Iceland have always been among the countries sharing first position except in 2006 (Norway) and 2009 (Iceland). These six countries set an example in the way they respect journalists and news media and protect them from judicial abuse.

They even continue to progress. Iceland, for example, is considering an exemplary bill, the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), that would provide a unique level of protection for the media. Sweden distinguishes itself by its Press Freedom Act, which has helped to create a particularly favourable climate for the work of journalists, by the strength of its institutions and by its respect for all those sectors of society including the media whose role in a democracy is to question and challenge those in positions of power.

Ten countries where it is not good to be a journalist

In recent years, Reporters Without Borders drew particular attention to the three countries that were always in the last three positions – Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan. This year, a bigger group of ten countries – marked by persecution of the media and a complete lack of news and information – are clumped together at the bottom. The press freedom situation keeps on deteriorating in these countries and it is getting harder to say which is worse than the other. The difference between the scores of the “best” and worst of the last 10 countries was only 24.5 points this year. It was 37.5 points in 2009 and 43.25 points in 2007.

It is worth noting that, for the first time since the start of the index in 2002, Cuba is not one of the 10 last countries. This is due above all to the release of 14 journalists and 22 activists in the course of the past summer. But the situation on the ground has not changed significantly. Political dissidents and independent journalists still have to deal with censorship and repression on a daily basis.

Freedom is not allowed any space in Burma, where a parliamentary election is due to be held next month, and the rare attempts to provide news or information are met with imprisonment and forced labour.

Finally, in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia and Mexico, countries either openly at war or in a civil war or some other kind of internal conflict, we see a situation of permanent chaos and a culture of violence and impunity taking root in which the press has become a favourite target. These are among the most dangerous countries in the world, and the belligerents there pick directly on reporters such as French TV journalists Stéphane Taponier and Hervé Ghesquière, who have been held hostage in Afghanistan for the past 300 days.

Economic growth does not mean press freedom

The BRICs – Brazil, Russia, India and China – may all be at a roughly similar stage of economic development but the 2010 index highlights major differences in the press freedom situation in these countries. Thanks to favourable legislative changes, Brazil (58th) has risen 12 places in the past year, while India has fallen 17 places to 122nd. Russia, which had a particularly deadly preceding year, is still poorly placed at 140th. Despite an astonishingly vibrant and active blogosphere, China still censors and jails dissidents and continues to languish in 171st place. These four countries now shoulder the responsibilities of the emerging powers and must fulfil their obligations as regards fundamental rights.

Heavy falls

The Philippines, Ukraine, Greece and Kyrgyzstan all fell sharply in this year’s index. In the Philippines this was due to the massacre of around 30 journalists by a local baron, in Ukraine to the slow and steady deterioration in press freedom since Viktor Yanukovych’s election as president in February, in Greece to political unrest and physical attacks on several journalists, and in Kyrgyzstan to the ethnic hatred campaign that accompanied the political turmoil.

The changes are unfortunately often deceptive. Some countries have risen sharply in the index this year but in fact all they have done is recover their traditional position after a particularly difficult if not disastrous 2009. This is the case with Gabon, which rose 22 places, South Korea (+27) and Guinea-Bissau (+25).

SEE Press Freedom Index

Romania occupies the 52nd position, a position it shares with Maldive Islands, in a freedom of the press top.. Romania drops two places compared to the 2009 edition of the Press Freedom Index, exceeding only Greece and Bulgaria of the EU member countries. Romania is advanced, among others by Italy on 49, Slovenia on 46, Cyprus on 45, France on 44, Slovakia on 35 and Poland on 32. The only Central Eastern European country in top 10 is Estonia on the 9th position.

Croatia has risen 16 points  landing at 62nd place this year.Croatia shares this year’s ranking with Botswana. Although this is a big improvement from last year, it is light years away from previous 45th place. Croatia’s ranking plummeted after the murder of journalist Ivo Pukanic in 2008, the portal Index writes.

Out of the regional neighbours, Slovenia ranks 46th this year, one place ahead of Bosnia and Herzegovina. FYRMacedonia is 68th, Serbia 85th, Kosovo 92nd and Montenegro is at 104th place.


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18. October - 24. October 2010.