| Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2007
Eritrea ranked last for first time while G8 membres, except Russia, recover lost ground
Cuba still near bottom ; Americas continue to be beset by violence, especially Peru and Mexico
Eritrea has replaced North Korea in last place in an index measuring the level of press freedom in 169 countries throughout the world that is published today by Reporters Without Borders for the sixth year running.
“There is nothing surprising about this,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Even if we are not aware of all the press freedom violations in North Korea and Turkmenistan, which are second and third from last, Eritrea deserves to be at the bottom. We know that four journalists have died in detention and we have every reason to fear that others will suffer the same fate.”
Outside Europe - in which the top 14 countries are located - no region of the world has been spared censorship or violence towards journalists.
Of the 20 countries at the bottom of the index, seven are Asian (Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Laos, Vietnam, China, Burma, and North Korea), five are African (Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Somalia and Eritrea), four are in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, Palestinian Territories and Iran), three are former Soviet republics (Belarus, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) and one is in the Americas (Cuba).
A year and a half after Raúl Castro took over as acting president in Cuba (165th), the predicted transition has in no way changed the human rights situation on the island. After China, Cuba continues to be the world’s second largest prison for the press, with 24 journalists detained and subjected to very harsh prison conditions.
Violence and censorship in the Americas
No journalist was killed in Colombia (126th) during the 12 months considered by this ranking. This is a first. Nonetheless, the media continue to be exposed to pressure and harassment by armed groups and paramilitaries. Cases of violence against journalists were reported in Brazil (84th) and Argentina (82nd) but the record was set by Peru (117th) with nearly 100 journalists physically attacked and many cases of threats as well.
Mexico continues to be the continent’s most dangerous country for the press. Eight journalists were killed there during the 12 months from September 2006. The police and judicial authorities failed to identify all those responsible and impunity continues to be rule.
In Venezuela (114th), the RCTV television station’s exclusion from terrestrial broadcasting at President Hugo Chávez’s behest on 27 May captured all the attention. Criticised even by some of the Bolivarian president’s own supporters, the measure highlighted the extent to which the government has taken control of radio and TV.
Fickleness of young democracies
Some non-European countries have made their first appearance in the top 50. They are Mauritania (50th), which has climbed 88 places since 2004, Uruguay (37th) and Nicaragua (47th). “We hope these improvements will be lasting ones,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Bolivia (68th) rose dramatically last year, but that improvement unfortunately seems to have been purely circumstantial as it has fallen many places this year because of serious press freedom violations.”
Some countries that traditionally held a good position have also fallen noticeably. This is the case with Benin (53rd) and Mali (52nd). Journalists have been imprisoned in these two African countries for the first time in several years for defamation or insulting the president. In the Americas, El Salvador (64th) also dropped from the top 50, falling 36 places in two years.
G8 members, except Russia, show slight improvement
After falling steadily in the index for the past three years, the G8 members have recovered a few places. France (31st), for example, has climbed six places in the past year. French journalists were spared the violence that affected them at the end of 2005 in a labour conflict in Corsica and during the demonstrations in the city suburbs. But many concerns remain about repeated censorship, searches of news organisations, and a lack of guarantees for the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.
There were slightly fewer press freedom violations in the United States (48th) and blogger Josh Wolf was freed after 224 days in prison. But the detention of Al-Jazeera’s Sudanese cameraman, Sami Al-Haj, since 13 June 2002 at the military base of Guantanamo and the murder of Chauncey Bailey in Oakland in August mean the United States is still unable to join the lead group.
Italy (35th) has also stopped its fall, even if journalists continue to be under threat from mafia groups that prevent them from working in complete safety. Japan (37th) has seen a letup in attacks on the press by militant nationalists, and this has allowed it to recover 14 places.
“These developments are good news,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Perhaps the repeated calls to these democracies to behave in an exemplary manner has finally borne fruit. But we must remain careful and vigilant. Nothing can be taken for granted and we hope this trend will continue or even accentuate near year. We regret all the same that only two G8 members, Canada (18th) and Germany (20th), managed to be among the top 20.”
Russia (144th) is not progressing. Anna Politkovskaya’s murder in October 2006, the failure to punish those responsible for murdering journalists, and the still glaring lack of diversity in the media, especially the broadcast media, weighed heavily in the evaluation of press freedom in Russia.
Reporters Without Borders compiled this index by sending a questionnaire to the 15 freedom of expression organisations throughout the world that are its partners, to its network of 130 correspondents, and to journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. It contained 50 questions about press freedom in their countries. The index covers 169 nations. Other countries were not included because of lack of data.
How the index was compiled
Questionnaire for compiling a 2007 world press freedom index
Evaluation by region:
|19||Trinidad and Tobago||5,00|
|34||Bosnia and Herzegovina||11,17|
|44||Israel (Israeli territory)||13,25|
|48||United States of America||14,50|
|65||United Arab Emirates||20,25|
|71||Central African Republic||22,50|
|-||United States of America (extra-territorial)||36,00|
|133||Democratic Republic of Congo||50,50|