By Ryan L. Maness
Impunity Watch Senior Desk Officer, Oceania
PARIS, France – The non-governmental, international organization Reporters Without Borders has released its annual report of World Press Freedom, in which it ranks 173 countries for the relative freedom of their press. Among the factors the organization uses to gauge the countries are violations that have a direct impact upon journalists including murders, imprisonment, physical attacks, threats of physical attack, censorship, confiscation and harassment.
Of the 20 countries rated as having the most free press, eight are European, but the report finds that the seventh most free press belongs to New Zealand.
While Australia is ranked 29 in the ranking (the same rank it held last year), the report makes specific mention of tensions between the Howard administration and the press. The report noted “at least 1500 legal decrees and rulings” that made limited press and public accessibility to information. Specifically mentioned was a provision that journalists “who might interview a person suspected of terrorism, is at risk of up to five years in jail.” The report referred to Australia’s anti-terror laws “simply outrageous.”
Despite recent deportations of newspaper editors, Fiji ascended the list from last year. The reports finds Fiji at 79, up from 107 last year. Despite the marked improvement, Pramod Rae, General Secretary of the National Federation Party, called the ranking an “eye-opener” saying, “There are 79 more steps to climb and the press in Fiji should not throw in the towel now.”
Other countries in the region also moved up the list. Tonga, which was listed last year at 119, is now listed at 84. East Timor is ranked at 65, up from 94 last year.
The full list can be found here.
For more information please see:
Fiji Daily Post – Moving Up – 25 October 2008
The Australian – Australia’s press freedom criticised in Reporters Without Borders rankings – 24 October 2008
Fiji Times Online – Fiji ranked 79 for press freedom – 24 October 2008
Radio New Zealand International – Fiji and Tonga move up in World press freedom rankings – 24 October 2008