On October 22 “Reporters Without Borders“ international organization released
its seventh annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index. The study was conducted in
173 countries and based on events between September 1, 2007 and September 1,
2008. RSF index was compiled by surveying 18 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 49 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. It also includes the degree
of impunity enjoyed by those responsible for press freedom violations.
It is not economic prosperity but peace that guarantees press freedom. That
is the main lesson to be drawn from “Reporters Without Borders” study. Thus
democratic countries embroiled in wars outside their territory have a very different
approach to freedom of speech inside and outside their country. This can be
noticed from the example of USA and Israel that received two RSF ranking indices
each. By domestic ranking USA shared 36-41 lines, while its extra-territorial
ranking is 119. Israel occupied lines 46 and 149, accordingly. Consequences
of war affected other countries as well decreasing their ranks dramatically.
While several emerging countries not engaged in wars, especially in Africa and
the Caribbean, give better and better guarantees for media freedom. Among other
factors defining the state of press freedom, the study particularly points out
corruption and political hatred.
Another important conclusion is that the international community’s conduct
towards authoritarian regimes is not effective enough to change the situation.
This refers to China (167th in RSF index), Cuba (169) and three more countries
– Turkmenistan (171), North Korea (172) and Eritrea (173) – occupying the bottom
ranks, similarly to the previous RSF study (see YPC Weekly Newsletter, October
The first places of the RSF index were shared by Iceland, Luxemburg and Norway.
In general, European countries prevail in the top twenty: they got 18 positions
together with Canada and New Zealand. All European Union countries made into
the top 60.
Of the former USSR countries the most benign is the situation in Estonia (4-6),
Latvia (7-12) and Lithuania (16-19). At a significant distance these are followed
by Ukraine (87), Moldova (98), Armenia (102-103, sharing with Turkey), Tajikistan
(106), Kyrgyzstan (111-112), Georgia (120), Kazakhstan (125). Even lower ranks
are occupied by Russia (141), Azerbaijan (150), Belarus (154), and Uzbekistan
(162). Among those only Ukraine, Russia and Tajikistan slightly improved their
positions, as compared to the previous RSF study, Kazakhstan’s rating remains
the same, while in the rest of the CIS countries regress is registered.
RSF study stresses deterioration of the situation in the Caucasus since last
year, in particular, in Armenia going down by 25 ranks (it had 77th line in
the previous index), and Georgia going down by 54 ranks (66th line in the previous
index). Both countries, as outlined by the “Reporters Without Borders”, “had
major problems and introduced states of emergency”. Besides, several journalists
fell victim to the sudden outbreak of war in Georgia, RSF stresses.