The latest Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index has been released, and it makes for grimmer reading than usual. As blogs increase in importance, bloggers are increasingly being targeted, with 26 imprisoned from September 2006 to September 2007.
South Africa continues to slip, reaching its lowest ever rating. From it’s high of 3.33 in 2004 (0 is perfection) it slipped to 5.0 in 2004, 6.5 in 2005, 11.25 in 2006, and now, not unexpectedly, 13.0 in 2007. Since the rankings cover events up until September 2007, the threats to the Sunday Times editor since then, even if overblown by the newspaper itself, will probably further worsen matters next year. South Africa’s ranking by country has also fallen to a new low, from 26th in 2003, to 43rd now.
South Africa is now down to 4th in Africa, with Namibia and Mauritius (joint 25th, with 8.5) and Ghana (29th, 9.0) leading the way.
A number of major countries are seeing a deterioration in conditions. The US slips to its worst ever rating (14.5 for the US, leaving it in 48th position), with detained Al-Jazeera journalist Sami Al-Haj being tortured and held without trial in the notorious Guantanamo military base, and San Francisco journalist Chauncey Bailey being murdered in August because of his articles. The UK also slip to their worst ever ranking (8.25, and 24th for the UK), as do France, Germany, Spain and Italy.
Even Iceland, who’ve led the ratings every year, slip from 0.5 to 0.75 (though they’re still first), and last year’s other joint leaders Ireland and Finland, slip to 2.0 and 1.5 respectively.
With so many countries reaching a new low, there are very few countries hitting a new high, with Estonia (up to 3rd with 1.0), Mauritania (50th with 15.5 and Zambia (68th, 21.5) the only 3 in the top 100 to do so.
At the bottom, Eritrea have the dubious distinction of recording the worst ever rating, 114.75. Numerous reporters have been killed in detention, and no criticism is brooked. North Korea, Turkmenistan, Iran, Cuba, Myanmar and China bring up the basement.
Like most independent organisations, Reporters Without Borders attract criticism from all sides. A brief search reveals they’ve been accused of being anti-American, anti-Cuban, anti-Haitian, anti-Pakistani. Perhaps it won’t be long before we see anti-South African on the list.
Lists such as these, which allow a quick comparison over multiple years using the same criteria, are useful, as they highlight, with a few exceptions, a worldwide deterioration in press freedom, that may not be noticeable year-by-year.
Let’s hope that next year sees a drastic improvement.
- Those cartoons, the SA blogosphere’s response, and the 2005 World Press Freedom Index
- World Press Freedom Index – SA down, US up