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Press Freedom Index 2007


Eritrea ranked last for first time while G8 members, except Russia, recover lost ground

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. The privately-owned press has been banished by the authoritarian President Issaias Afeworki and the few journalists who dare to criticise the regime are thrown in prison. We know that four of them 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).

“We are particularly disturbed by the situation in Burma (164th),” Reporters Without Borders said. “The military junta’s crackdown on demonstrations bodes ill for the future of basic freedoms in this country. Journalists continue to work under the yoke of harsh censorship from which nothing escapes, not even small ads. We also regret that China (163rd) stagnates near the bottom of the index. With less than a year to go to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the reforms and the releases of imprisoned journalists so often promised by the authorities seem to be a vain hope.”

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.

Bulgaria and Poland - Europe’s bad boys

All of the European Union member countries made it into the top 50 except Bulgaria (51st) and Poland (56th). In Sofia, journalists can be physically attacked because of their work. The climate got even worse after charges were withdrawn against police officers who beat up a journalist in May. In Poland, the authorities refuse to decriminalize press offences and the courts often pass suspended prison sentences on journalists. Ever since Lech Kaczynski became president in October 2005 and his brother, Jaroslaw, became prime minister a few months later, there has been an increase in prosecutions of news media.

The countries of northern Europe are always the ones who behave best. The exception is Netherlands (12th), which has fallen 12 places because it kept two Telegraaf journalists in custody for two days for refusing to reveal their sources to the judicial authorities.

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.

Government repression no longer ignores bloggers

The Internet is occupying more and more space in the breakdown of press freedom violations. Several countries fell in the ranking this year because of serious, repeated violations of the free flow of online news and information.

In Malaysia (124th), Thailand (135th), Vietnam (162nd) and Egypt (146th), for example, bloggers were arrested and news websites were closed or made inaccessible. “We are concerned about the increase in cases of online censorship,” Reporters Without Borders said. “More and more governments have realised that the Internet can play a key role in the fight for democracy and they are establishing new methods of censoring it. The governments of repressive countries are now targeting bloggers and online journalists as forcefully as journalists in the traditional media.”

At least 64 persons are currently imprisoned worldwide because of what they posted on the Internet. China maintains its leadership in this form of repression, with a total of 50 cyber-dissidents in prison. Eight are being held in Vietnam. A young man known as Kareem Amer was sentenced to four years in prison in Egypt for blog posts criticising the president and Islamist control of the country’s universities.

War and peace

War is largely responsible for the low position assigned to some countries. The increase in fighting in Somalia (159th) and Sri Lanka (156th) has made it very hard for journalists to work. Several have been killed and censorship has been stepped up as clashes became frequent. The belligerents refuse to recognise journalists’ rights and accuse them of supporting the other side.

The battle raging between Hamas and Fatah is the main cause of the large number of serious press freedom violations in the Palestinian Territories (158th). Hostage-taking, arrests, physical attacks and ransacking of news organisations - the Palestinian media and the few visiting journalist are threatened from all sides.

In Iraq (157th), what journalists fear most are the armed groups that target them without the authorities ever finding a way to put an end to the litany of violence. More than 200 journalists and media assistants have been killed since the start of the US-led invasion in March 2003.

As predicted last year, Nepal (137th) has jumped more than 20 places in the ranking. The end of the war and the return to democratic rule resulted in an immediate recovery of basic freedoms and created new space for the media.

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.





1 Iceland 0,75
- Norway 0,75
3 Estonia 1,00
- Slovakia 1,00
5 Belgium 1,50
- Finland 1,50
- Sweden 1,50
8 Denmark 2,00
- Ireland 2,00
- Portugal 2,00
11 Switzerland 3,00
12 Latvia 3,50
- Netherlands 3,50
14 Czech Republic 4,00
15 New Zealand 4,17
16 Austria 4,25
17 Hungary 4,50
18 Canada 4,88
19 Trinidad and Tobago 5,00
20 Germany 5,75
21 Costa Rica 6,50
- Slovenia 6,50
23 Lithuania 7,00
24 United Kingdom 8,25
25 Mauritius 8,50
- Namibia 8,50
27 Jamaica 8,63
28 Australia 8,79
29 Ghana 9,00
30 Greece 9,25
31 France 9,75
32 Taiwan 10,00
33 Spain 10,25
34 Bosnia and Herzegovina 11,17
35 Italy 11,25
36 Macedonia 11,50
37 Japan 11,75
- Uruguay 11,75
39 Chile 12,13
- South Korea 12,13
41 Croatia 12,50
42 Romania 12,75
43 South Africa 13,00
44 Israel (Israeli territory) 13,25
45 Cape Verde 14,00
- Cyprus 14,00
47 Nicaragua 14,25
48 United States of America 14,50
49 Togo 15,17
50 Mauritania 15,50
51 Bulgaria 16,25
52 Mali 16,50
53 Benin 17,00
54 Panama 17,88
55 Tanzania 18,00
56 Ecuador 18,50
- Poland 18,50
58 Cyprus (North) 19,00
- Montenegro 19,00 n. c.
60 Kosovo 19,75
61 Hong-Kong 20,00
- Madagascar 20,00
63 Kuwait 20,17
64 El Salvador 20,20
65 United Arab Emirates 20,25
66 Georgia 20,83
67 Serbia 21,00
68 Bolivia 21,50
- Burkina Faso 21,50
- Zambia 21,50
71 Central African Republic 22,50
72 Dominican Republic 22,75
73 Mozambique 23,00
74 Mongolia 23,40
75 Botswana 23,50
- Haiti 23,50
77 Armenia 23,63
78 Kenya 23,75
79 Qatar 24,00
80 Congo 24,50
81 Moldova 24,75
82 Argentina 24,83
83 Senegal 25,00
84 Brazil 25,25
85 Cambodia 25,33
- Liberia 25,33
87 Albania 25,50
- Honduras 25,50
- Niger 25,50
90 Paraguay 26,10
91 Angola 26,50
92 Malawi 26,75
- Ukraine 26,75
94 Côte d’Ivoire 27,00
- Timor-Leste 27,00
96 Comoros 28,00
- Uganda 28,00
98 Lebanon 28,75
99 Lesotho 29,50
100 Indonesia 30,50
101 Turkey 31,25
102 Gabon 31,50
103 Israel (extra-territorial) 32,00
104 Guatemala 33,00
- Seychelles 33,00
106 Morocco 33,25
107 Fiji 33,50
- Guinea 33,50
- Guinea-Bissau 33,50
110 Kyrgyzstan 33,60
111 Cameroon 36,00
- United States of America (extra-territorial) 36,00
113 Chad 36,50
114 Venezuela 36,88
115 Tajikistan 37,00
116 Bhutan 37,17
117 Peru 37,38
118 Bahrein 38,00
119 Tonga 38,25
120 India 39,33
121 Sierra Leone 39,50
122 Jordan 40,21
123 Algeria 40,50
124 Malaysia 41,00
125 Kazakhstan 41,63
126 Colombia 42,33
127 Burundi 43,40
128 Philippines 44,75
129 Maldives 45,17
130 Gambia 48,25
131 Nigeria 49,83
132 Djibouti 50,25
133 Democratic Republic of Congo 50,50
134 Bangladesh 53,17
135 Thailand 53,50
136 Mexico 53,63
137 Nepal 53,75
138 Swaziland 54,50
139 Azerbaijan 55,40
140 Sudan 55,75
141 Singapore 56,00
142 Afghanistan 56,50
143 Yemen 56,67
144 Russia 56,90
145 Tunisia 57,00
146 Egypt 58,00
147 Rwanda 58,88
148 Saudi Arabia 59,75
149 Zimbabwe 62,00
150 Ethiopia 63,00
151 Belarus 63,63
152 Pakistan 64,83
153 Equatorial Guinea 65,25
154 Syria 66,00
155 Libya 66,50
156 Sri Lanka 67,50
157 Iraq 67,83
158 Palestinian Territories 69,83
159 Somalia 71,50
160 Uzbekistan 74,88
161 Laos 75,00
162 Vietnam 79,25
163 China 89,00
164 Burma 93,75
165 Cuba 96,17
166 Iran 96,50
167 Turkmenistan 103,75
168 North Korea 108,75
169 Eritrea 114,75
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