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Third Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index

East Asia and Middle East have worst press freedom records

No progress in Eritrea or Zimbabwe, but more and more African countries climb into the top half of the ranking

Reporters Without Borders announces its third annual worldwide index of press freedom. Such freedom is threatened most in East Asia (with North Korea at the bottom of the entire list at 167th place, followed by Burma 165th, China 162nd, Vietnam 161st and Laos 153rd) and the Middle East (Saudi Arabia 159th, Iran 158th, Syria 155th, Iraq 148th).

In these countries, an independent media either does not exist or journalists are persecuted and censored on a daily basis. Freedom of information and the safety of journalists are not guaranteed there. Continuing war has made Iraq the most deadly place on earth for journalists in recent years, with 44 killed there since fighting began in March last year.

But there are plenty of other black spots around the world for press freedom. Cuba (in 166th place) is second only to China as the biggest prison for journalists, with 26 in jail (China has 27). Since spring last year, these 26 independent journalists have languished in prison after being given sentences of between 14 and 27 years.

No privately-owned media exist in Turkmenistan (164th) and Eritrea (163rd), whose people can only read, see or listen to government-controlled media dominated by official propaganda.

The greatest press freedom is found in northern Europe (Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, the Netherlands and Norway), which is a haven of peace for journalists. Of the top 20 countries, only three (New Zealand 9th, Trinidad and Tobago 11th and Canada 18th) are outside Europe.

Other small and often impoverished democracies appear high on the list, such as El Salvador (28th) and Costa Rica (35th) in Central America, along with Cape Verde (38th) and Namibia (42nd) in Africa and Timor-Leste (57th) in Asia.

Reporters Without Borders compiled the index by asking its partner organisations (14 freedom of expression organisations in five continents), its 130 correspondents around the world, as well as journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists, to answer 52 questions to indicate the state of press freedom in 167 countries (others were not included for lack of information).

Privately-owned press in the process of disappearing
The situation is dramatically simple in Eritrea (163rd): there has no longer been any privately-owned press, free expression or foreign correspondents. Fourteen journalists and newspaper editors are imprisoned in secret locations, without being tried. The media landscape is almost as denuded in Zimbabwe (155th). Since the repeated attacks by the authorities on the Daily News, the independent press has been reduced to one or two weeklies with a limited circulation. At the same time, although general elections are due in 2005, the government has banned the main opposition party from being allowed any access to the state media.

The aftereffects of war
In Côte d’Ivoire (149th) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (141st), war and the obstacles put in the way of reconstruction have taken a heavy toll on press freedom.

Both in the Ivorian port city of Abidjan (in the south of the country) and in Bouaké (the capital of the area controlled by the New Forces), journalists constantly run enormous risks to report the news. French journalist Jean Hélène was killed as a result of the hostility towards the press in October 2003. And French-Canadian journalist Guy-André Kieffer has been missing since April 2004.

An extremely violent climate reigns in parts of the immense Democratic Republic of Congo. Many cases of brutality and arbitrary arrests have been reported throughout the year in Kinshasa and the provinces. A man who was mistaken for his brother, a radio station manager, was gunned down in Bukavu in June by dissident military who had installed a reign of terror that targeted the media in particular.

To a lesser extent, an unstable and fragile political situation continues to take its toll on journalists in Sierra Leone (88th) and the Central African Republic (104th).

In Nigeria (117th), several recent raids by federal police against independent news media have raised concerns that President Olusegun Obasanjo’s government has begun to take a much harder line towards the most critical journalists.

Real improvement
In addition to the countries that have traditionally respected press freedom - South Africa (26th), Benin (27th), Cape Verde (38th), Namibia (42nd), Mauritius (46th), Botswana (50th), Mali (56th) and Ghana (57th) - there have been noticeable improvements elsewhere. Togo (75th) rose 20 places in the ranking after putting a stop to the many arbitrary arrests of journalists and decriminalizing press offences. Angola (91st) continues its slow climb after a quarter-century of war in which several journalists were among the victims.

Finally, the passing years seem to have no impact on the impunity prevailing in Burkina Faso (64th). Six years after the murder of journalist Norbert Zongo, the case is far from being resolved.

Evaluation by region:

-  Africa
-  Americas
-  Asia
-  Europe and former USSR
-  Middle East


PDF - 226.4 kb
Africa index


PDF - 403.9 kb
Americas index


PDF - 316.8 kb
Asia index


PDF - 356.5 kb
Europe index


PDF - 398 kb
MidEast index

-  How the index was compiled


Evaluation by region:
  The ranking
Country Note
1 Denmark 0,50
- Finland 0,50
- Iceland 0,50
- Ireland 0,50
- Netherlands 0,50
- Norway 0,50
- Slovakia 0,50
- Switzerland 0,50
9 New Zealand 0,67
10 Latvia 1,00
11 Estonia 2,00
- Germany 2,00
- Sweden 2,00
- Trinidad and Tobago 2,00
15 Slovenia 2,25
16 Lithuania 3,00
17 Austria 3,25
18 Canada 3,33
19 Czech Republic 3,50
- France 3,50
21 Bosnia and Herzegovina 3,67
22 Belgium 4,00
- United States of America (American territory) 4,00
24 Jamaica 4,17
25 Portugal 4,50
26 South Africa 5,00
27 Benin 5,50
28 El Salvador 6,00
- Hungary 6,00
- United Kingdom 6,00
31 Dominican Republic 6,75
32 Poland 6,83
33 Greece 7,00
34 Hong-Kong 7,50
35 Costa Rica 7,63
36 Bulgaria 8,00
- Israel (Israeli territory) 8,00
38 Cape Verde 8,75
39 Italy 9,00
- Spain 9,00
41 Australia 9,50
42 Chile 10,00
- Japan 10,00
- Namibia 10,00
- Uruguay 10,00
46 Mauritius 10,50
- Paraguay 10,50
48 South Korea 11,13
49 Macedonia 11,25
50 Albania 11,50
- Botswana 11,50
52 Nicaragua 11,67
53 Honduras 11,75
54 Croatia 11,83
55 Grenade 12,00
56 Mali 12,83
57 Ghana 13,50
- Timor-Leste 13,50
59 Thailand 14,00
60 Taiwan 14,25
61 Panama 14,50
- Tanzania 14,50
63 Fiji 16,00
64 Burkina Faso 16,25
- Mozambique 16,25
66 Brazil 16,50
- Ecuador 16,50
- Guatemala 16,50
69 Congo 17,50
70 Romania 17,83
71 Niger 18,33
72 Madagascar 18,50
73 Burundi 19,00
- Mongolia 19,00
75 Togo 19,50
76 Bolivia 20,00
77 Serbia and Montenegro 20,13
78 Moldova 20,50
79 Argentina 21,33
80 Senegal 21,50
81 Cyprus (North) 22,00
82 Kenya 22,25
83 Armenia 23,50
- Guinea-Bissau 23,50
- Seychelles 23,50
86 Uganda 24,00
87 Lebanon 24,38
88 Guinea 24,50
- Sierra Leone 24,50
90 Venezuela 24,63
91 Angola 26,50
- Comoros 26,50
93 Cameroon 27,00
94 Georgia 27,50
95 Tajikistan 27,75
96 Mexico 27,83
97 Afghanistan 28,25
98 Gambia 29,50
- Lesotho 29,50
100 Zambia 29,75
101 Malawi 31,00
- Swaziland 31,00
103 Kuwait 31,67
104 Central African Republic 32,50
- Qatar 32,50
106 Chad 33,25
107 Kyrgyzstan 35,25
108 United States of America (in Iraq) 36,00
109 Cambodia 36,50
- Sri Lanka 36,50
111 Philippines 36,63
112 Ethiopia 37,00
113 Rwanda 37,25
- Turkey 37,25
115 Gabon 37,50
- Israel (Occupied Territories) 37,50
117 Indonesia 37,75
- Nigeria 37,75
119 Tonga 38,17
120 India 38,50
121 Jordan 39,13
122 Malaysia 39,83
123 Liberia 40,00
- Peru 40,00
125 Haiti 42,13
126 Morocco 43,00
127 Palestinian Authority 43,17
128 Algeria 43,50
- Egypt 43,50
- Somalia 43,50
131 Kazakhstan 44,17
132 Sudan 44,25
133 Equatorial Guinea 46,25
134 Colombia 47,38
135 Yemen 48,00
136 Azerbaijan 49,67
137 United Arab Emirates 50,25
138 Mauritania 51,00
- Ukraine 51,00
140 Russia 51,38
141 Democratic Republic of Congo 51,50
142 Uzbekistan 52,13
143 Bahrein 52,50
144 Belarus 54,10
145 Djibouti 55,00
146 Bhutan 55,83
147 Singapore 57,00
148 Iraq 58,50
149 Côte d’Ivoire 60,38
150 Pakistan 61,75
151 Bangladesh 62,50
152 Tunisia 62,67
153 Laos 64,33
154 Libya 65,00
155 Syria 67,50
- Zimbabwe 67,50
157 Maldives 69,17
158 Iran 78,30
159 Saudi Arabia 79,17
160 Nepal 84,00
161 Vietnam 86,88
162 China 92,33
163 Eritrea 93,25
164 Turkmenistan 99,83
165 Burma 103,63
166 Cuba 106,83
167 North Korea 107,50
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