Reporters Without Borders compiled a questionnaire with 52 criteria for assessing the state of press freedom in each country. It includes every kind of violation directly affecting journalists (such as murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats) and news media (censorship, confiscation of issues, searches and harassment).
It registers the degree of impunity enjoyed by those responsible for such violations. It also takes account of the legal situation affecting the news media (such as penalties for press offences, the existence of a state monopoly in certain areas and the existence of a regulatory body) and the behaviour of the authorities towards the state-owned news media and the foreign press. It also takes account of the main obstacles to the free flow of information on the Internet.
The report from Reporters sans Frontieres isn’t surprising in many ways. It notes that freedom of the press 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).”
The reports also notes that 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. ” What ought to be very sobering for U.S. citizens, however, on the day before our midterm elections, is that we are #23. We’re not the richest country and, apparently, we are loosing ground in basic freedoms.
The news is not that good for the on line world either, despite its apparent healthy anarchy. I will finish up with this from the BBC News Online:
“Freedom of expression online is a right, not a privilege – but it’s a right that needs defending,” said Steve Ballinger of Amnesty International. “We’re asking bloggers worldwide to show their solidarity with web users in countries where they can face jail just for criticising the government.”