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2014 World Press Freedom Index – small improvement for South Africa amidst a general worldwide decline

The latest World Press Freedom Index is out.

While the news worldwide is generally negative, with all regions except for Asia showing a deterioration, South Africa improved markedly from its place in 2013, jumping 11 positions from 52nd to 42nd. Before you hammer me on my maths, this counts as 11 due to the inclusion this year for the first time of Belize, in 29th spot, without which South Africa would have improved to 41st position.

A large part of the improvement is due to Jacob Zuma’s refusal to sign the draconian Protection of State Information Bill, although its still on the agenda in a revised form.

There are four African countries with greater press freedom than South Africa. These include Namibia, in 22nd place, Cape Verde in 24th, Ghana in 27th and Botswana in 41st.

However, much of the worsening situation is due to social breakdown and war, with the Central African Republic, after the complete disbanding of the media network due to the conflict, dropping all of 43 places to 109th. Eritrea retains its position as the worst country in the world for press freedom, with 28 journalists currently detained, no independent media, and news of the Arab Spring strictly forbidden.

A number of other African countries also saw worsening situations, with the Democratic Republic of the Congo dropping 8 places to 151st, Burundi 9 to 142nd and, Chad 17 to 139th.

Finland, the Netherlands, Norway and Luxembourg head the charts, with other Scandinavian and northern European countries close behind. The first country from outside the region is New Zealand, in 9th place.

The United Kingdom has dropped to 33rd, while, gaining most of the press attention, the United States has plummeted 13 positions down the charts, and is once again behind South Africa, in 46th. Barack Obama’s two terms have seen an increased crackdown on whistleblowers, with the continuing pursuit of Edward Snowden, who exposed much of the military surveillance, and freelance journalist Barrett Brown being threatened with a 105 year sentence.

In South America, regional powerhouse Brazil continues to disappoint, languishing in 111th place, while its left to Costa Rica and Uruguay, in 21st and 26th position respectively, to set an example. Some of the biggest improvers were from the region though, with Ecuador, Bolivia and Panama all seeing substantial improvements, albeit from low bases.

In Asia, regional powers India and China have little to no press freedom, while Japan, only two years ago a leading light in Asia, falls again to 59th position, with its continued censorship of the nuclear situation.

See the full index at the Reporters Without Borders website.

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