If the Arab Spring and the many protest movements around the world did their bit to alter the rankings last year, it was back to the older sureties in the latest World Press Freedom Index brought out by the Reporters Without Borders.
This year’s index is a better reflection of the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom in the medium to long term.
For a third year running, Finland was the country that respects freedom of the press the most, while Syria, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea were the worst offenders for the second straight year.
The US rose 15 places to 32, recovering a ranking more appropriate to the “country of the First Amendment”. Its previous year’s fall was due to the crackdown on the Occupy Wall Street movement, which did not spare reporters in the field.
In Asia, India, which dropped nine places to 140th is at its lowest since 2002 because of increasing impunity for violence against journalists. Also, Internet censorship continues to grow. China, at the 173rd spot, shows no sign of improving. Its prisons still hold many journalists and netizens, while unpopular Internet censorship continues to be a major obstacle to access to information.
Why is Finland a good example of press freedom? According to the European Centre for Journalism, 76 per cent of the population of 10 years and over reads a daily or afternoon newspaper. The environment for the journalism industry is competitive and there is incentive to produce a better product.
There is also a strong professional organisation, with the Union of Journalists having 14,000 members. The Union negotiates with employers associations a collective agreement. In 2005, it adopted a renewed version of guidelines for good journalistic practices.
The Finnish Government ensures the transparency of information and the focus is to promote the information society in everyday life. Pertinently, there is no special legislation on media competition, media concentration or media ownership.
The Council for Mass Media in Finland has been set up by publishers and journalists to act as a self-regulatory body.
Finland was the first country to make broadband access a legal right in 2010. Every person in Finland will have the right to a one-megabit broadband connection as an intermediate step, says the Ministry of Transport and Communications. By the end of 2015, the legal right will be extended to an impressive 100MB broadband connection for everyone.
It is no coincidence then that the index of press freedom is almost similar to the index of corruption perception. The top countries in that regard are Denmark, Finland, New Zealand, Sweden, Netherlands and Norway.
The Top 10 in terms of press freedom
Rank Country Note Differential
2 Netherlands 6,48 +1 (3)
8 New Zealand 8,38 +5 (13)
The 10 countries with the worst instances of press freedom
172 Vietnam 71,78 0 (172)
175 Somalia 73,59 -11 (164)
177 Turkmenistan 79,14 0 (177)
178 North Korea 83,90 0 (178)
179 Eritrea 84,83 0 (179)
Indian newspaper issues dire warning
In the wake of the highly-publicised gang rape in which a 23-year-old died from the injuries she sustained, an Indian newspaper ran an ad on January 22 asking men to respect women… as part of their manhood.
What’s interesting here is not that the ad ran, but it seems to be a message written and sponsored by the newspaper itself. Ordinarily, you might see such advocacy on an editorial page. But this is the reverse of the now in-vogue “native advertising”, which looks like an ad designed to stand out from the rest of the paper. Maybe therein lies its strength.
NFL players are doing a service to students at the Elmwood Franklin School in Buffalo, New York simply by tweeting. They’re providing great examples of bad grammar which second-grade students are correcting.