On October 26 “Reporters Without Borders” (RSF) international organization published its third worldwide press freedom index. The study was conducted in 167 countries of the world and based on events between September 1, 2003 to September 1, 2004. RSF index was compiled by surveying 14 partner organization and 130 correspondents of RSF, as well as journalists, researchers, lawyers and human rights activists. The respondents were assessing the press freedom in each country with a questionnaire compiled by RSF and including 52 criteria: ranging from various forms of pressure on journalists and media to legislative restrictions, the behavior of authorities towards the state-owned media and foreign press. Main obstacles to the free flow of information on the Internet were also taken into account.
In the opinion of RSF, press freedom is threatened most in East Asia and Middle East, where “freedom of media and the safety of journalists are not guaranteed”. Thus, the continuing war in Iraq has made it “the most deadly place on earth for journalists”: 44 journalists were killed there since the fighting started in March 2003.
Similarly to the previous research (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, October 17-23, 2003), the bottom lines are taken by North Korea (167th this time) and Cuba (166th), again named by RSF to be “the biggest prison for journalists”, second only to China (162).
The greatest “haven of peace for journalists” is recognized to be Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Slovakia and Switzerland that are sharing the top line in RSF rating. All members of European Union are among the 40 freest countries.
The remarkable progress made by Turkey (113) with its legislation with a view to joining the EU has still not translated into a significant improvement in press freedom in practice, RSF thinks.
Among the former Soviet Union countries the press freedom situation is most favorable in Latvia (10), Estonia (11) and Lithuania (16). The Baltic countries are followed, at a great distance, by Moldova (78), Armenia (83), Georgia (94), Tajikistan (95), Kyrgyzstan (107), Kazakhstan (131), Azerbaijan (136), Ukraine (139), Russia (140), Uzbekistan (142), Belarus (144) and Turkmenistan (164).
The drop in Azerbaijan’s rating (that had taken the 113th line in the previous study) is said by RSF to be a result of "a decline in press freedom since October 2003 presidential election”: "Around 100 journalists were physically attacked and detained during the rioting that followed the polls. One of them, who is also the leader of an opposition party, was sentenced to five years in prison.” Georgia’s fall from 73rd (in the previous study) to 94th line, in the opinion of “Reporters Sans Frontieres”, is due to “unrest in the autonomous republics of Ajaria and Abkhazia, which gave rise to press freedom violations”.
Thus, this time Armenia got ahead of its neighbors in South Caucasus region. However, what factors allowed to improve the press freedom in our country and enabled it to rise by 7 points (from the 90th to 83rd line) since the last time remains unclear. The study presented on the RSF web-site does not say a word on that.