YPC Weekly Newsletter

2007


RSF INDEX: BLOGGERS THREATENED AS MUCH AS JOURNALISTS IN TRADITIONAL MEDIA

On October 16 “Reporters Without Borders“(RSF) international organization released
its sixth annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index. The study was conducted in 169
countries and based on events between September 1, 2006 and September 1, 2007.
RSF index was compiled by surveying 15 partner organizations 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 50 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. Obstacles to the free flow
of information on the Internet were also taken into account.

The distinctive feature of the past year was the drastic increase in the persecution
of bloggers, online censorship: “More and more governments have realized that
the Internet can play a key role in the fight for democracy and they are establishing
new methods of censoring it.” According to RSF, at least 64 persons are currently
imprisoned worldwide because of what they posted on the Internet.

The bottom ranks of the RSF index, similarly to the last year (see YPC Weekly
Newsletter, October 20-26, 2006),
were taken by Turkmenistan (167), North Korea (168) and Eritrea, with the latter
going down to the last, 169th rank for the first time. RSF noted the disturbing
situation in a number of other countries, too, including China that stagnates
near the bottom of the index (163): “With less than a year to go to the
Beijing Olympics the reforms and the releases of imprisoned journalists so often
promised by the authorities seem to be a vain hope.”

The first rank of the RSF index was shared by Iceland and Norway. The research
notes that the G8 member countries, except Russia, show slight improvement over
the past year. All of the European Union member countries made it into the top
50 except Bulgaria (51) and Poland (56-57). Turkey (101) was the only country
in the European region, where a journalist was murdered: “The victim was Hrant
Dink, the editor of Armenian minority newspaper ‘Agos’ who was gunned down in
January by radical nationalists.”

Of the former USSR countries the most benign is the situation in Estonia (3-4),
Latvia (11-12) and Lithuania (23). At a significant distance these are followed
by Georgia (66), Armenia (77), Moldova (81), Ukraine (92-93), Kyrgyzstan (110),
Tajikistan (115), Kazakhstan (125), that have move up a little in RSF rating.
While Russia has went from 147 rank in 2006 to 144 in 2007, in the opinion of
index compilers, the country is not progressing: “Anna Politkovskaya’s murder
in October 2006, the failure to punish those responsible for murdering journalists,
and the still glaring lack of diversity in the media, especially the broadcast
media, weighed heavily in the evaluation of press freedom in Russia.” And if
Belarus, similarly to 2006, took 151 line in RSF index, two other post-Soviet
countries have gone a bit down: Azerbaijan moved to 139th place, Uzbekistan
– to 160th.

“Reporters Without Borders” do not comment on the freedom of press situation
in Armenia in any way. In other words, the journalistic community of Armenia
continues to remain unaware what prompts such drastic ups and downs in its rank,
particularly this time, when Armenia gained the highest line ever, going up
by 25 ranks as compared to 2005 and 2006 RSF index.