RSF presents a damning global scenario for media freedom

RSF presents a damning global scenario for media freedom

SAM Report,

As the global body Reporters Without Borders (RSF) presented a gloomy picture on media freedom around the world Wednesday in its 2017 press freedom report and annual index, in South Asia, India came 136th in the list of 180 nations, and Pakistan gained 8 positions to climb to 139, Sri Lanka remained at 141 and Bangladesh climbed two notches from the year 2016 to be at the 146th place.

The RSF have raised concerns pertaining to media freedom in Bangladesh pointing out that the Bangladeshi government does not take kindly to criticism. ‘There is real pluralism, but media self-censorship is growing as a result of the endemic violence against journalists and media outlets, and the systematic impunity enjoyed by those responsible,” it said in its 2017 country profile of Bangladesh.

Journalists and bloggers who resist censorship or self-censorship risk life imprisonment, the death penalty, or murder by Islamist militants, who often issue online calls for the deaths of outspoken secularist bloggers and writers, RSF added.

The global media watchdog has been consistently raising the issue of press freedom in Bangladesh.

In 2016 RSF had condemned the blocking of 35 news websites by the Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).

Meanwhile in the rest of South Asian performance in media freedom in 2017, Afghanistan remained at the 120th place, Maldives climbed down by 5 notches to stand at 117, with the best performers for the South Asian region being Bhutan and Nepal.

Nepal climbed 5 slots to be ranked at 100 and Bhutan improved from last year by climbing by 10 notches to maintain its place at 84.

Meanwhile the Asian giant China maintained its ranking at 176 in the bottom 5 countries where North Korea was the worst performer.

Globally, press freedom has never been as threatened as it is now, in the “new post-truth era of fake news” following the election of US President Donald Trump, the Paris based non-profit said as it warned of the “highly toxic” media-bashing of Trump’s election campaign and Britain’s Brexit referendum.

With the worldwide situation is at “a tipping point in the state of media freedom, especially in leading democratic countries, the media monitoring group said. The US and Britain both slipped two places in the index to 43rd and 40th places respectively. Journalists in Uruguay (standing at the 25th place in 2017) are freer to hold the powerful to account than their peers in the United States, the  report said.

In the emerging new world of media control, even the top-ranked Nordic countries are slipping down the Index, it pointed out.  After six years at the top, Finland (down 2 at 3rd) has surrendered its No. 1 position due to political pressure and conflicts of interests, RSF said. The top spot has been taken by Norway in 2017 (up 2 at 1st), delivering a blow for the European model, RSF noted.  Sweden has risen six places to take 2nd position.

The Asia-Pacific region is cited as the third worst violator overall, after the Middle East and North Africa region. Although it is the third slot, the Asia Pacific holds many of the worst kinds of records having some of the most dangerous countries for journalists, the report said. Africa comes next, according to the report which pointed out that the Internet is now routinely disconnected at election time and during major protests in Africa.

China (176), North Korea (180th), and Laos (170th), are news and information ‘black holes,’ the report maintained.

The European Union and Balkans region continue to be where the media are freest.  The European Union and Balkans indicator rose 17.5% over the past five years. During the same period, the Asia-Pacific indicator increased by only 0.9%.

Media freedom is being undermined by the rise in surveillance and of authoritarian strongmen across the globe, the watchdog warned, pointing out that in the past year nearly two thirds of the countries had registered a deterioration in their situation, while the number of countries where the media freedom situation was “good” or “fairly good” fell by more than two percent.

North Korea was the ‘least free’ country and took the bottom place while Eritrea, another repressive closed state, stood at 179.

Italy meanwhile was the most positive example of improvement, rising 25 places to 52nd in the backdrop of the acquittal of journalists tried in the Vatileaks II case, which in 2012 exposed corruption at the very helm the Catholic Church and where in July 2016 the Vatican court acquitted the two journalists involved in the Vatileaks trial, citing freedom of expression as its reason.