Where does your country rank?

Australia Press Freedom IndexI’ve just been looking over Reporters Without Borders annual survey and it has some interesting results. The Worldwide Press Freedom Index ranked Iceland at the top of the rankings, while Eritrea replaced North Korea as the worst offender. RWB also found that bloggers are coming under as much threat as traditional journalists, with more countries impeding the flow of online news and information.

Malaysia (124th), Thailand (135th), Egypt (146th) and Vietnam (162nd) were all singled out as offenders where “bloggers were arrested and news websites were closed or made inaccessible”. Egypt in particular is notable for sentencing blogger Kareem Amer to four years jail for criticising the Egyptian president and Islamist control of universities. Turkey, which blocked access to WordPress.com in August this year, ranked 101st. Pakistan ranked 154th.

Australia came 28th which isn’t too bad (okay but not great). Our anti-terror laws have caused a few problems, and then there was everything with APEC. New Zealand is still way above us at 15th and the United Kingdom is 24th. The United States is 48th.

The survey caught my eye after our electoral debate on Sunday night. The National Press Club twice tried to cut Channel 9’s coverage of the debate because 9 was using its “worm” to measure audience reaction. The Liberals had placed strict rules (basically a ban) on use of the worm which 9 disregarded and apparently that was enough for the National Press Club to try to take 9 off the air. They failed; 9 just switched to another feed.

I’m fed up with this election already. The coverage is everywhere and the election isn’t for another 5 weeks! But it’s a reminder that we can’t take our freedoms for granted, not even when there’s so much attention focused on the system. And a reminder that as bloggers everywhere, we have a responsibility to speak up against abuses – because there are many more people in other countries who don’t have that opportunity. I wonder where your country ranks?

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7 thoughts on “Where does your country rank?

  1. in malaysia, we claim to have freedom of speech and religion. however, what you didn’t see is the tiny asterisk after the words speech and religion, because like almost everything else in life, they come with terms and conditions. 😉

    and if you’re wondering, what asterisks? i don’t see any… well, told you they were tiny

    CJ: True, doesn’t everything have a catch or an asterisk now? And always so small that you can’t see them? 😉 But seriously, freedom of speech is such a core value that it’s terrible to think about the abuses going on. Once you start taking away liberties, even for the social good, it’s very hard to get them back.

  2. The fear mongers south of the Canadian border have had a tremendous impact on my country and not in a positive way. IMHO the US is like an untrained elephant – dangerous!

    CJ: I think in many ways the US represents the differing aspects of free society, both the idea of being free and democratic and the dangers that come with it; the partisanship in the media would be one example. I always think of the US as something of a sleeping giant myself. 😉

  3. Well, as a citizen of the sleeping giant untrained elephant, I think that many “normal” people here (not government officials) are beginning to realize that we don’t own world culture. And don’t want to. What fun is that? There is change afoot, and I for one am glad of it.
    And sulz, thanks for alerting us to the tiny asterisks I hadn’t seen yet. Let’s all keep our magnifying glasses at the ready!

    CJ: It’s interesting but I’ve never actually seen the US that way. I know Hollywood, for instance, produces a lot of content and we get most of it, but we’re the ones who import it; if we really wanted a change, wouldn’t we just stop going to see movies, etc? That’s the main way culture spreads.

    The reason I see the US as a sleeping giant is because in the past I don’t think the US has been as aware of its influence (rightly or wrongly). But as you say that’s changing, and the same goes for Australia and Britain too. {sigh} I wish this election was over already. If I have to listen to another load of spin I think I’ll jump off the balcony. 😉

  4. muse: heh, cj’s right – everything has an asterisk, just a matter of whether we realise it or not! 🙂

    CJ: I’m right? Yay! I have glasses, though, so I can read the fine print for that asterisk… 😀

  5. i am from bangladesh and i dare not take the test. sorry, can’t give you an answer.

    even the newspapers are so depressing that i always start reading it last page first. or with the culture page. starting my day with bad news is just too mush too take.

    CJ: No worries; it’s more a report than a test, but I know what you mean. I try to keep up to date with the news, but there are times when I just can’t face it either… more bad news or spin. And I’m in a country with a fairly open media.

    Like your new avatar, btw! 🙂

  6. I find the report to be more than a little misleading, especially having had experience of journalism in several countries.

    In the UK for example, there is a lot of self-censorship along class and race grounds. There is also censorship to avoid offending businesses that particular media outlets depend on for revenue.

    And there is overt, internal censoship and editorial direction by US-owned companies. Just after the 9/11 attacks, for example, I was working for a media outlet owned by Gannett and we were told that under no circumstances were we to say that the US was partly to blame, nor were we to say anything that might upset US shareholders.

    Over and above that, there is the heavy hand of the laws of defamation and injurious libel. A yachting magazine was successfuly sued for a critical review of a yacht, with the result that journalists have to be much, much more careful and muted in their criticisms of products. Praise as much as you like, but ignore or play down problems is often the rule that’s applied.

    All are areas that have landed me in hot water for not toeing the corporate or cultural line.

    CJ: I agree; I thought some parts were very misleading when I read it as well. One thing I’m still not sure about is Eritrea being last; certainly their abuses deserve it, but can you responsibly name one party as being worse than another when North Korea is completely impenetrable? We can’t say we have any definitive idea of how far the repression goes in North Korea, and then there was everything in Burma as well, and Sudan (only 140?). Perhaps naming a group of countries would have been more responsible.

    Self-censorship concerns me as much as governmental repression; journalists (and bloggers) should know what they have to lose by toeing the line and when we don’t question, when news services just report, we’re not a free society. Your experience with Gannett sounds awful, Stone; obviously there are times when you want to be respectful, but it’s those times when it’s important peoples’ voices are heard as well. I know after the 7/7 bombings in London that V for Vendetta was partly delayed because it wasn’t ready, but also because of concerns it would seem disrespectful so soon after the attacks. But it’s such a powerful movie that I was disappointed they didn’t release it on time; it’s important we question and never forget the freedoms we have to lose.

    Still, on the whole I think the report had more strengths than flaws. And there aren’t that many alternatives to be honest, at least that I know of? It’s seems fairly accurate in its results, if not in how it got there.

  7. india is certainly best..because it gives freedom to press and speech with no conditions.

    CJ: Is India best? The Indian Constitution provides for more freedom but there are laws like the Official Secrets Act which circumvent it. And RWB lists India at #120.

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