More press freedom in parts of Africa than in America

The countries were ranked at position 23, 26, 32, 34 and 35 respectively while the US was at number 53.

The RSF index gives each country a score, based on the degree of freedom for journalists and media organisations. The best possible score would be zero, and a few European countries approach this. Tied at the top of the index, with a score of 0.5 are Finland, Iceland, Ireland and Holland.

Press freedom in the United States has been declining over the years with the RSF index, showing a fall from 17th position in the first year the index was published to 44th position last year. At position 53, the US is ranked alongside Botswana, Croatia and Tonga.

RSF said this decline arises from the deterioration in relations between the Bush administration and the media “after the President used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism”.

RSF also points out that US federal courts refuse to recognise journalists’ cherished right not to reveal their sources. This “even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism”.

RSF notes, in particular, the cases of freelance journalist Josh Wolf, imprisoned by the US authorities when he refused to hand over his video archive; of Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj held without trial at the US military base of Guantanamo since June 2002; and of an Associated Press photographer, Bilal Hussein, held by the US in Iraq since April this year.

There seems no limit to how bad a score can get, but the paranoid dictatorship of North Korea comes bottom of the pile, at number 168, with a score of 109. Runners up in infamy are Turkmenistan (98.5) and Eritrea (97.5).

The ranking and scores for all the member states of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) are as follows:

Country Ranking Score

Namibia 26 6.00

Mauritius 32 8.00

South Africa 44 11.25

Mozambique 45 11.50

Botswana 53 13.00

Madagascar 66 15.00

Lesotho 70 16.00

Tanzania 88 19.82

Angola 91 21.50

Zambia 93 22.50

Malawi 101 25.50

Swaziland 127 40.50

Zimbabwe 140 50.00

Congo (DRC) 142 51.00

The index covers events between 1 September 2005 and 1 September 2006, and is based on a questionnaire sent by RSF to 14 other freedom of expression groups on five continents, and to 130

RSF correspondents scattered across the globe, plus a variety of other journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists.

To include any country in the index, RSF requires completed questionnaires from several sources. Thus a few countries are not in the index at all because of a lack of data.

Among its 50 questions, the questionnaire asks how many journalists have been murdered, jailed, tortured, assaulted, threatened, or forced out of the country in the year under analysis.

It also considers censorship and self-censorship, searches of media premises, and the jamming of radio broadcasts.

It asks whether access to the profession of journalism is controlled (through such measures as a compulsory certificate), whether a licence is needed to start a newspaper, and whether there are undue restrictions on foreign investment in the media. ‘ Aim-New Ziana.

November 2006
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