Less Press Freedom in US and UK than last year

28 Jan
  • Countries which pride themselves on free speech slide down international league table
  • Britain slides from 19th to 28th place on back of phone hacking, Leveson Inquiry and ‘libel tourists’
  • America falls from 20th to 47th after heavy-handed approach to Occupy demonstrators
  • Mixed fortunes for Arab Spring countries with Tunisia and Libya rising up the ranks
  • But Syria, Bahrain and Yemen fall as dictators use suppression to cling to power

Britain and the United States have dropped down a league table which rates the freedom of the press across the world, it emerged today.

The UK’s slide from 19th to 28th place is partly blamed on fallout from the phone hacking scandal at the News Of The World which prompted the Leveson Inquiry into press ethics.

Researchers from watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RWB), who compiled the World Press Freedom Index, also highlighted liberal libel laws which allow claimants of any nationality to sue in its courts. Libel ‘tourism’ is seen as a way for the richest to clamp down on freedom of expression.

There were also concerns that the police had attempted to extract information from a number of private companies – including Blackberry – to identify looters during the London riots.

Freedom Of The World Press 2012League table: This map of the world shows countries with the most press freedom coloured white and the least coloured black

America’s performance was even worse. It dropped from 20th to 47th position on the back of heavy-handed police tactics at a string of demonstrations against corporate greed.

A number of journalists – as well as protesters – were arrested as the Occupy movement swept across the country.

Heather Blake, from RWB, described the statistics as a worrying trend.

‘The West prides itself on supporting the principles of free speech and freedom of expression,’ she said.

‘If we are going to promote these principles across the rest of the world, then we’ve got to make sure that we uphold them ourselves.’

In the UK’s case, there are fears that the Leveson Inquiry could have further-reaching consequences than anyone initially envisaged.

Long-overdue reform of archaic libel laws would make it more difficult for foreign nationals to sue through British courts However, there is some suggestion that Parliament could delay enacting them into law because of Leveson.

There is also the possibility that the press could face formal regulation for the first time.

The Press Freedom  index reflected a year of upheaval, protest and revolution worldwide – though participation in the Arab Spring was no guarantee of an improved rating.

While Tunisia (up to 134 from 164) and Libya (160 to 154) fared well, Egypt dropped from 127 to 166 after a wave of detentions by the army in the wake of the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

Syria, Bahrain and Yemen – where dictators clung to power by brutally suppressing protesters  – racked up their worst-ever ratings.

Of the 179 countries on the index, Syria came in at 176 (173 in 2010) while Bahrain ranked at 173, a drop of 29 places.

Bottom of the table were Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea. Finland, Norway and the Netherlands claimed the top spots.

The biggest fall was by Malawi, which dropped 67 places to 146 after the suppression of protests last summer.

Niger, meanwhile, leapt spectacularly to 29th place – just one spot below the UK.

‘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,’ RWB noted.

‘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.

‘Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011. Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy

‘It is no surprise that the same trio of countries, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea, absolute dictatorships that permit no civil liberties, again occupy the last three places in the index.

‘This year, they are immediately preceded at the bottom by Syria, Iran and China, three countries that seem to have lost contact with reality as they have been sucked into an insane spiral of terror, and by Bahrain and Vietnam, quintessential oppressive regimes.’

The index is compiled by a team of RWB researchers who use a series of questions to rank each country.

These address areas such as violence and abusive treatment of journalists, state-interference such as surveillance of members of the media and censorship. RWB revised this year’s questions to attempt to avoid a Western bias.

WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX 2011
1. Finland and Norway 77. Armenia 144. Swaziland
3. Estonia and the Netherlands 78. Kuwait 145. Democratic Republic of Congo
5. Austria 79. Togo 146. Indonesia and Malawi
6. Iceland and Luxembourg 80. Serbia, Bulgaria, Chile and Paraguay 148. Turkey
8. Switzerland 84. Kenya and Madagascar 149. Mexico
9. Cape Verde 86. Guinea, Kosovo, Timor-Leste and Zambia 150. Afghanistan
10. Canada and Denmark 90. Congo 151. Pakistan
12. Sweden 91. Benin 152. Iraq
13. New Zealand 92. Israel (Israeli territory) 153. Palestinian Territories
14. Czech Republic 93. Lebanon 154. Kazakhstan and Libya
15. Ireland 94. Macedonia 156. Rwanda
16. Cyprus, Jamaica and Germany 95. Dominican Republic 157. Uzbekistan
19. Costa Rica 96. Albania 158. Saudi Arabia
20. Belgium and Namibia 97. Cameroon and Guatemala 159. Côte d’Ivoire and Djibouti
22. Japan and Surinam 99. Brazil 161. Equatorial Guinea
24. Poland 100. Mongolia 162. Azerbaijan
25. Mali, OECS and Slovakia 101. Gabon 163. Sri Lanka
28. United Kingdom 102. Cyprus (North) 164. Somalia
29. Niger 103. Chad 165. Laos
30. Australia and Lithuania 104. Ecuador and Georgia 166. Egypt
32. Uruguay 106. Nepal 167. Cuba
33. Portugal 107. Montenegro 168 . Belarus
34. Tanzania 108. Bolivia and Kyrgyzstan 169. Burma
35. Papua New Guinea 110. Liberia 170. Sudan
36. Slovenia 111. South Sudan 171. Yemen
37. El Salvador 112. United Arab Emirates 172. Vietnam
38. France 113. Panama 173. Bahrain
39. Spain 114. Qatar 174. China
40. Hungary 115. Peru 175. Iran
41. Ghana 116. Ukraine 176. Syria
42. South Africa and Botswana 117. Cambodia, Fiji, Oman, Venezuela and Zimbabwe 177. Turkmenistan
44. South Korea 122. Algeria, Tajikistan and Malaysia 178. North Korea
45. Comoros and Taiwan 125. Brunei 179. Eritrea
47. United States of America, Argentina and Romania 126. Nigeria
50. Latvia and Trinidad and Tobago 127. Ethiopia
52 . Haiti 128. Jordan
53. Moldova 129. Bangladesh
54. Hong Kong, Mauritius and Samoa 130. Burundi
57. United States of America (extra-territorial) 131. India
58. Malta, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Guyana 132. Angola
61. Italy 133. Israel (extra-territorial)
62. Central African Republic 134. Tunisia
63. Lesotho, Sierra Leone and Tonga 135. Singapore and Honduras
66. Mozambique 137. Thailand
67. Mauritania 138. Morocco
68. Croatia and Burkina Faso 139. Uganda
70. Bhutan and Greece 140. Philippines
72. Nicaragua 141. Gambia
73. Maldives and Seychelles 142. Russia
75. Guinea-Bissau and Senegal 143. Colombia Data from Reporters Without Borders

via World Press Freedom Index 2011: U.S. and U.K. drop | Mail Online.

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One Response to “Less Press Freedom in US and UK than last year”

  1. lissnup January 28, 2012 at 10:50 pm #

    Reblogged this on @lissnup and commented:

    Trying to identify UK rioters from BlackBerry RIM has a payback

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  1. Irish Press Freedom – A Drop In Global Ranking For 2011-2012 « - February 3, 2012

    [...] Less Press Freedom in US and UK than last year (globalfree.wordpress.com) Comhroinn. Tagged Éire (Ireland), Occupy Wall Street, Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders, Sasana (England) [...]

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