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Third Annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index

East Asia and Middle East have worst press freedom records

All EU members among the first 40; Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia lag behind

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).

All EU members among the first 40
Italy and Spain are the two European Union (EU) member states that ranked worst, sharing 39th position. In Italy, Silvio Berlusconi’s conflict of interests as prime minister and at the same time owner of a media empire continued to affect the independence of the broadcasting sector. But the relatively poor ranking is due this year above all to the many judicial decisions violating press freedom, including prison sentences for press offences, searches and violation of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.

Spain’s poor ranking is due to the resumption of ETA’s terror campaign against journalists who do not share its views on international politics or the situation in the Basque country. It is also due to the manipulation of the news and the direct pressure put on the state news media by the government of Prime Minister José Maria Aznar in the immediate aftermath of the Madrid bombings of 11 March 2004.

The United Kingdom’s ranking (28th) is largely due to the situation in Northern Ireland, where journalists are constantly threatened by paramilitary groups. The investigation into the 2001 murder of Sunday World journalist Martin O’Hagan has come to a complete standstill.

In France (19th), the year was marked by the attempted murder of a journalist with the daily Le Figaro, whose car was riddled with bullets in Corsica in early September 2003.

Belgium’s fall to 22nd position is due to a serious violation of the confidentiality of a foreign correspondent’s sources. Greece’s position (33rd) is attributable above all to the many obstacles to the work of journalists in the run up to the Olympic Games.

The EU’s ten new member countries show respect for press freedom but legislation is not always in line with European standards, which recommend the elimination of prison sentences for press crimes. For example, Poland (32nd) sentenced a journalist to three months in prison for defamation. Only a national and international outcry prevented the journalist from going to prison.

The poor rankings assigned to EU candidates Romania (70th) and (to a lesser extent) Bulgaria (36th), as well as Moldova (78th), contrasts with the overall improvement in the Balkans. Serbia-Montenegro (77th) trails somewhat because of the murder of a journalist who was investigation corruption allegation implicating Montenegro’s prime minister.

The remarkable progress made by Turkey (113th) with its legislation with a view to joining the EU has still not translated into a significant improvement in press freedom in practice. The proof of this was the lack of any fall this year in the number of violations of the kind that are used to calculate this worldwide ranking.

Russia, Caucasus and Central Asia lag behind
In the Caucasus, Azerbaijan’s sharp fall to 136th position is the result of a decline in press freedom since the October 2003 presidential election. Around 100 journalists were physically attacked and detained during the rioting that followed the polls. One of them, who is also the leader of an opposition party, was sentenced to five years in prison. Georgia’s fall to 94th position is largely due to unrest in the autonomous republics of Adzhara and Abkhazia, which gave rise to press freedom violations.

In Russia (140th), the biased coverage of the tragic hostage crisis in Beslan, in North Ossetia, was a flagrant illustration of the total control exercised by the Kremlin over the national TV stations. Many Russian and foreign journalists were prevented from working and the censorship applied to Chechnya was extended to neighbouring republics. The Agence France-Presse correspondent in the region is still missing, while two journalists were killed in Moscow during the summer, one of them the editor of the Russian version of the US magazine Forbes.

In Ukraine (138th), pro-opposition journalists and some foreign media were censored in the run-up to the October 2004 presidential election. The number of physical attacks was also very high and those responsible for the murders of journalists, including that of Georgy Gongadze, still enjoy total impunity.

In Belarus (144th), President Alexander Lukashenko’s regime tolerates no criticism and all methods are systematically used to reduce the few dissident voices to silence. The information minister closed or suspended some 10 independent newspapers on spurious bureaucratic grounds in the run-up to the legislative elections and referendum on 17 October. The investigation into the disappearance of opposition journalist Dmitri Zavadski in 2000 was closed although there is little doubt that the highest authorities were involved.

Finally, in Uzbekistan (142nd), the sentencing of a journalist and human rights activist to a heavy prison sentence for "homosexuality" is an example of the government’s brutal repression of an independent press that is almost non-existent. The rankings assigned to Kyrgyzstan (107th) and Tajikistan (95th) were relatively good compared to the other countries in the region, but are not grounds for overlooking how extremely precarious press freedom is there.

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
Annual worlwide press freedom index 2007 Annual worlwide press freedom index 2006 Annual worlwide press freedom index 2005 Annual worlwide press freedom index 2004 Annual worlwide press freedom index 2003 Annual worlwide press freedom index 2002