The Press Freedom Index
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The Press Freedom Index


Reporters Without Borders released their 10th annual Press Freedom Index today, with this year’s list suggesting that Finland and Norway have the world’s freest media.

“This year’s index sees many changes in the rankings, changes that reflect a year that was incredibly rich in developments, especially in the Arab world,” the organization said on releasing the report. “Many media paid dearly for their coverage of democratic aspirations or opposition movements. Control of news and information continued to tempt governments and to be a question of survival for totalitarian and repressive regimes. The past year also highlighted the leading role played by netizens in producing and disseminating news.”

The highest ranked country in the Asia-Pacific was New Zealand, at 13th place, followed by Japan in 22nd place (a little generous considering that despite Japan arguably having relatively little direct official harassment, it has still operated a restrictive, self-censoring kisha kurabu or “reporters club” system), and Australia at No. 30.

Second from bottom was North Korea in 178th (although it may at least be making some progress with the Associated Press opening a bureau in Pyongyang), then Turkmenistan in 177th, Iran at 175 and China at 174.

China’s crackdown on the media in 2011 has been much commented on, and comes as part of a broader drive against dissenting views that has included the jailing of activists, tougher rules on social networking sites and significant shows of force in response to rumors early last year of a possible push for a Jasmine revolution in China.

Will things improve in 2012? According to Kelley Currie, a democratization analyst with the Project 2049 Institute with a close interest in China, the answer is “no.”

“I think 2012 will continue the negative trend for press freedom in China. With the leadership transition in full swing and the latest dictates from the Communist Party for the media to ‘stick to the main line’ and strengthen their propaganda work, the Chinese press will see its operating space continue to be constrained,” she told me.

“Tibet has been closed to foreigners for the fifth year in a row, this time for a month, and access was already difficult. It seems we are right now in one of those cycles where the control apparatus is gaining on or catching up with technological changes that it had previously struggled to manage effectively.”

Currie added that the Party is also very much focused on “shaping the messages coming out of popular social media venues.”

“The new real name registration requirements on weibo (micro-blogging) services will potentially diminish their role in pushing the boundaries for freedom of expression,” she said. “But these requirements also serve as a pointed reminder for otherwise apolitical netizens that the Chinese Internet nannies are watching.”

This bleak view was in keeping with Reporters’ own assessment of the global media landscape.

“[P]ro-democracy movements that tried to follow the Arab example were ruthlessly suppressed. Many arrests were made in Vietnam (172nd). In China, the government responded to regional and local protests and to public impatience with scandals and acts of injustice by feverishly reinforcing its system of controlling news and information, carrying out extrajudicial arrests and stepping up Internet censorship,” today’s report noted.

For those wondering, the United States also took a tumble, from 20th place last year to 47th, mostly, the report says, because of the “many arrests of journalists covering Occupy Wall Street protests.”

February 1, 2013 at 16:53

Since Kisha Club is not new in 2011-12 and other publishing/legal environment  has stayed the same in Japan over the years, it can only be assumed that there is an interpretation of restrictive press associated with the Fukushima nuclear disaster.  As somone wha has paid attention to the appallingly poor journalistic performance, particularly by the "foreign" press in reporting on the disaster, I find the reporters without borders evaluation problematic.  While there is plenty of evidence of incompetance, clumsiness, and ignorance on part of government authorities I would challenge any instance of censorship, repression or for that matter influence over press freedom by government at the time of the disaster.  What was remarkable was how open and often the communications were (unfortunately often pure guess work and uncertain information given the nature of the beast).  What was also remarkable was that some very respectable media outlets reported unfounded accusations of untruths (as in lies as opposed to bad knowledge) on part of government.   Having sat through bleary eyed over the very late night press offerings by TEPCO and having not missed too many of the daily Edano press conferences, thanks to the internet, it is not for lack of candor nor for press restrictions that the fourth estate offerings were so dismal.   Any person who followed the situation closely in real time through even just the official offerings of information should not be surprised by the later confirmation of such things as "melt-down" as it really was telegraphed very clearly concurrently that it was a possibility.  Much of that was shock resulting from semantics.   
There is a huge difference between alarmist reporting and only reporting what is known.  Just as well the Japanese domestic press for most part refrained from making stuff up, which would have led to stampede of people fleeing Tokyo.  The quality of the foreign press (and governments) is relected in the substantial ex-pat exit out of Narita. 
There are many problematic issues of journalism in Japan including self sensorship and avoidance of certain third rail issues.   Howevver I fail to see government, such as it is, being culprit thus falling more than 10 points from previous year has no basis in fact.

January 31, 2013 at 17:52

the Press Freedom Index 2013 is out !,1054.html
Reporters without Borders

October 18, 2012 at 08:03

No free press in Norway. It's all state sponsored (propaganda).

January 31, 2012 at 00:14

China deserves her abysmal Press Freedom ranking. However I’m disgusted at the excessively high rating for Germany and America.

“Freedom of Speech” is the freedom to say what the people in power don’t want to hear. Germany fails this and fails badly.

January 29, 2012 at 23:38

Hahaha, that is soo true!

Fred Slocombe
January 29, 2012 at 01:17

When one examines the infrastructure of the “Press” and accounts for the burdens and obstacles before acceptance into the fold of the main-stream media as a privileged journalist, the idea of a “Free Press” takes on a whole different meaning.

January 28, 2012 at 23:52

Ever heard of Sweden? There is two things you cant post in Sweden. It’s cp and millitary grade installations.

anthony lloyd
January 27, 2012 at 01:20

do not let this pass.

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