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:: Issues > Human Rights
Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2006
War, the destroyer of press freedom in
Wednesday, October 25,2006 00:00
by Reporters without Borders

War, the destroyer of press freedom in Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinian Authority

France and the United States slip further The Arab world affected by row over Mohammed cartoons

New countries have moved ahead of some Western democracies in the fifth annual Reporters Without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index, issued today, while the most repressive countries are still the same ones.

 

“Unfortunately nothing has changed in the countries that are the worst predators of press freedom,” the organisation said, “and journalists in North Korea, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Cuba, Burma and China are still risking their life or imprisonment for trying to keep us informed. These situations are extremely serious and it is urgent that leaders of these countries accept criticism and stop routinely cracking down on the media so harshly.

 

"Each year new countries in less-developed parts of the world move up the Index to positions above some European countries or the United States. This is good news and shows once again that, even though very poor, countries can be very observant of freedom of expression.

 

Meanwhile the steady erosion of press freedom in the United States, France and Japan is extremely alarming,” Reporters Without Borders said.

 

The three worst violators of free expression - North Korea, bottom of the Index at 168th place, Turkmenistan (167th) and Eritrea (166th) - have clamped down further. The torture death of Turkmenistan journalist Ogulsapar Muradova shows that the country’s leader, “President-for-Life” Separmurad Nyazov, is willing to use extreme violence against those who dare to criticise him. Reporters Without Borders is also extremely concerned about a number of Eritrean journalists who have been imprisoned in secret for more than five years. The all-powerful North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il, also continues to totally control the media.

 

Northern European countries once again come top of the Index, with no recorded censorship, threats, intimidation or physical reprisals in Finland, Ireland, Iceland and the Netherlands, which all share first place.

 

Deterioration in the United States and Japan, with France also slipping

 

The United States (53rd) has fallen nine places since last year, after being in 17th position in the first year of the Index, in 2002. Relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism.” The zeal of federal courts which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism.

 

Freelance journalist and blogger Josh Wolf was imprisoned when he refused to hand over his video archives. Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj, who works for the pan-Arab broadcaster Al-Jazeera, has been held without trial since June 2002 at the US military base at Guantanamo, and Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein has been held by US authorities in Iraq since April this year.

 

France (35th) slipped five places during the past year, to make a loss of 24 places in five years. The increase in searches of media offices and journalists’ homes is very worrying for media organisations and trade unions. Autumn 2005 was an especially bad time for French journalists, several of whom were physically attacked or threatened during a trade union dispute involving privatisation of the Corsican firm SNCM and during violent demonstrations in French city suburbs in November.

 

Rising nationalism and the system of exclusive press clubs (kishas) threatened democratic gains in Japan, which fell 14 places to 51st. The newspaper Nihon Keizai was firebombed and several journalists physically attacked by far-right activists (uyoku).

 

Fallout from the row over the "Mohammed cartoons”

 

Denmark (19th) dropped from joint first place because of serious threats against the authors of the Mohammed cartoons published there in autumn 2005. For the first time in recent years in a country that is very observant of civil liberties, journalists had to have police protection due to threats against them because of their work.

 

Yemen (149th) slipped four places, mainly because of the arrest of several journalists and closure of newspapers that reprinted the cartoons. Journalists were harassed for the same reason in Algeria (126th), Jordan (109th), Indonesia (103rd) and India (105th).

 

But except for Yemen and Saudi Arabia (161st), all the Arab peninsula countries considerably improved their rank. Kuwait (73rd) kept its place at the top of the group, just ahead of the United Arab Emirates (77th) and Qatar (80th).

 

War, the destroyer of press freedom

 

Lebanon has fallen from 56th to 107th place in five years, as the country’s media continues to suffer from the region’s poisonous political atmosphere, with a series of bomb attacks in 2005 and Israeli military attacks this year. The Lebanese media - some of the freest and most experienced in the Arab world - desperately need peace and guarantees of security. The inability of the Palestinian Authority (134th) to maintain stability in its territories and the behaviour of Israel (135th) outside its borders seriously threaten freedom of expression in the Middle East.

 

Things are much the same in Sri Lanka, which ranked 51st in 2002, when there was peace, but has now sunk to 141st because fighting between government and rebel forces has resumed in earnest. Dozens of Tamil journalists have been physically attacked after being accused by one side or the other of being biased against them.

 

Press freedom in Nepal (159th) has shifted according to the state of the fighting that has disrupted the country for several years. The “democatic revolution” and the revolt against the monarchy in April this year led immediately to more basic freedoms and the country should gain a lot of ground in next year’s Index.

 

Welcome changes of regime

 

Changes of ruler are sometimes good for press freeedom, as in the case of Haiti, which has risen from 125th to 87th place in two years after the flight into exile of President Jean-Bertrand Aristide in early 2004. Several murders of journalists remain unpunished but violence against the media has abated.

 

Togo (66th) has risen 29 places since the death of President Gnassingbe Eyadema in February 2005, the accession to power of his son and internationally-backed efforts to make peace with the opposition.

 

A coup in Mauritania in August 2005 ended the heavy censorship of the local media and the country has risen to 77th position after being 138th in 2004, one of the biggest improvements in the Index.

 

Improvement in North Africa, except for Tunisia

 

Things got better in Algeria and Morocco, where the authorities treated the media better than in previous years. Reporters Without Borders was also allowed into Libya for the first time ever to meet regime officials.

 

The lessening of restrictions by the royal family and the opening up of broadcasting moved Morocco up 23 places to 97th position. But two independent weeklies, Tel Quel and Le Journal hebdo, were sentenced in 2006 to pay huge fines after being found guilty of libel.

 

Algeria (126th) was up three places and Libya up 10 (152nd). Algerian journalists got a break with President Abdelaziz Bouteflika’s partial amnesty in July 2006 but no structural reform was made to expand press freedom. The Libyan regime allowed more access to news, especially online and through Arab and other foreign satellite TV stations, but still cracked down just as hard on all criticism of the government.

 

In Tunisia (148th), seizures of newpapers, unjustified dismissals of journalists and suspending them without pay were common. The November 2005 World Summit on the Information Society in Tunis was a farce. Several foreign journalists covering it were closely and openly spied on by the secret police. Just before the Summit opened, a journalist of the French daily Libération was beaten up and stabbed, a Belgian RTBF TV crew roughed up and two journalists of France’s TV5 harassed.

 

Repression continues in Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia

 

Saudi Arabia (161st), Syria (153rd) and Iran (162nd) were again among the bottom group on the Index, as they have been for years since they have no independent media, only organs that spout government propaganda. The rulers of these countries keep a tight grip on the news and have set many red lines journalists must not cross. Self-censorship remains the best protection for journalists. Foreign journalists can only rarely get entry visas.

 

Newcomers to the top ranks

 

Two countries moved into the Index’s top 20 for the first time. Bolivia (16th) was best-placed among less-developed countries and during the year its journalists enjoyed the same level of freedom as colleagues in Canada or Austria. But the growing polarisation between state-run and privately-owned media and between supporters and opponents of President Evo Morales could complicate the situation.

 

Bosnia-Herzegovina (19th) continued its gradual rise up the Index since the end of the war in ex-Yugoslavia and is now placed above its European Union member-state neighbours Greece (32nd) and Italy (40th).

 

Ghana (34th) rose 32 places to become fourth in Africa behind the continent’s three traditional leaders - Benin (23rd), Namibia (26th) and Mauritius (32nd). Economic conditions are still difficult for the Ghanaian media but it is no longer threatened by the authorities.

 

Panama (39th) is enjoying political peace which has helped the growth of a free and vigorous media and the country moved up 27 places over the year.

 

WORLDWIDE PRESS FREEDOM INDEX 2006 - THE RANKINGS

 

Country

Score

1

Finland

0,50

-

Iceland

0,50

-

Ireland

0,50

-

Netherlands

0,50

5

Czech Republic

0,75

6

Estonia

2,00

-

Norway

2,00

8

Slovakia

2,50

-

Switzerland

2,50

10

Hungary

3,00

-

Latvia

3,00

-

Portugal

3,00

-

Slovenia

3,00

14

Belgium

4,00

-

Sweden

4,00

16

Austria

4,50

-

Bolivia

4,50

-

Canada

4,50

19

Bosnia and Herzegovina

5,00

-

Denmark

5,00

-

New-Zealand

5,00

-

Trinidad and Tobago

5,00

23

Benin

5,50

-

Germany

5,50

-

Jamaica

5,50

26

Namibia

6,00

27

Lithuania

6,50

-

United Kingdom

6,50

29

Costa Rica

6,67

30

Cyprus

7,50

31

South Korea

7,75

32

Greece

8,00

-

Mauritius

8,00

34

Ghana

8,50

35

Australia

9,00

-

Bulgaria

9,00

-

France

9,00

-

Mali

9,00

39

Panama

9,50

40

Italy

9,90

41

El Salvador

10,00

-

Spain

10,00

43

Taiwan

10,50

44

South Africa

11,25

45

Cape Verde

11,50

-

Macedonia

11,50

-

Mozambique

11,50

-

Serbia and Montenegro

11,50

49

Chile

11,63

50

Israel

12,00

51

Japan

12,50

52

Dominican Republic

12,75

53

Botswana

13,00

-

Croatia

13,00

-

Tonga

13,00

-

United States of America

13,00

57

Uruguay

13,75

58

Fiji

14,00

-

Hong-Kong

14,00

-

Poland

14,00

-

Romania

14,00

62

Central African Republic

14,50

-

Cyprus (North)

14,50

-

Guinea-Bissau

14,50

-

Honduras

14,50

66

Madagascar

15,00

-

Togo

15,00

68

Ecuador

15,25

69

Nicaragua

15,50

70

Burkina Faso

16,00

-

Kosovo

16,00

-

Lesotho

16,00

73

Congo

17,00

-

Kuwait

17,00

75

Brazil

17,17

76

Argentina

17,30

77

Mauritania

17,50

-

Senegal

17,50

-

United Arab Emirates

17,50

80

Albania

18,00

-

Qatar

18,00

82

Paraguay

18,25

83

Timor-Leste

18,50

84

Liberia

19,00

85

Moldova

19,17

86

Mongolia

19,25

87

Haiti

19,50

88

Tanzania

19,82

89

Georgia

21,00

90

Guatemala

21,25

91

Angola

21,50

92

Malaysia

22,25

93

Comoros

22,50

-

Zambia

22,50

95

Niger

24,50

-

Seychelles

24,50

97

Morocco

24,83

98

Bhutan

25,00

-

Côte d’Ivoire

25,00

-

Turkey

25,00

101

Armenia

25,50

-

Malawi

25,50

103

Indonesia

26,00

-

Sierra Leone

26,00

105

India

26,50

-

Ukraine

26,50

107

Lebanon

27,00

108

Cambodia

27,25

109

Guinea

27,50

-

Jordan

27,50

111

Bahrein

28,00

112

Cameroon

28,25

-

Peru

28,25

114

Gabon

28,50

115

Venezuela

29,00

116

Uganda

29,83

117

Tajikistan

30,00

118

Kenya

30,25

119

United States of America (extra-territorial)

31,50

120

Nigeria

32,23

121

Djibouti

33,00

122

Thailand

33,50

123

Kyrgyzstan

34,00

124

Chad

35,50

125

Burundi

39,83

126

Algeria

40,00

127

Swaziland

40,50

128

Kazakhstan

41,00

-

Rwanda

41,00

130

Afghanistan

44,25

131

Colombia

44,75

132

Mexico

45,83

133

Egypt

46,25

134

Palestinian Authority

46,75

135

Azerbaijan

47,00

-

Israel (extra-territorial)

47,00

137

Bangladesh

48,00

-

Equatorial Guinea

48,00

139

Sudan

48,13

140

Zimbabwe

50,00

141

Sri Lanka

50,75

142

Democratic Republic of Congo

51,00

-

Philippines

51,00

144

Maldives

51,25

-

Somalia

51,25

146

Singapore

51,50

147

Russia

52,50

148

Tunisia

53,75

149

Gambia

54,00

-

Yemen

54,00

151

Belarus

57,00

152

Libya

62,50

153

Syria

63,00

154

Iraq

66,83

155

Vietnam

67,25

156

Laos

67,50

157

Pakistan

70,33

158

Uzbekistan

71,00

159

Nepal

73,50

160

Ethiopia

75,00

161

Saudi Arabia

76,00

162

Iran

90,88

163

China

94,00

164

Burma

94,75

165

Cuba

95,00

166

Eritrea

97,50

167

Turkmenistan

98,50

168

North Korea

109,00

 

 


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