Law and Reprisals Make Brazil’s Freedom of Press Ranking Low

Brazil ranks 63 in the Reporters Without Borders fourth annual World Press Freedom Index. On this 167-country list, Brazil comes after countries like Botswana, Niger, Hong Kong, Bolivia and El Salvador.

The press law in Brazil (63rd)-which dates from the military dictatorship and provides for imprisonment-has yet to be repealed, even though it is no longer enforced. The local media is also still the target of violent reprisals, such as the murder July 1 of community radio director José Cândido Amorim Pinto.

Some Western democracies slipped down the Index. The United States (44th) fell more than 20 places, mainly because of the imprisonment of New York Times reporter Judith Miller and legal moves undermining the privacy of journalistic sources. Federal courts are getting increasingly bold about subpoenaing journalists and trying to force them to disclose their confidential sources.

Canada (21st) also dropped several places due to decisions that weakened the privacy of sources and sometimes turned journalists into "court auxiliaries." France (30th) also slipped, largely because of searches of media offices, interrogations of journalists and introduction of new press offences.

At the top of the Index once again are northern European countries Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands, where robust press freedom is firmly established. The top 10 countries are all European. New Zealand (12th), Trinidad and Tobago (12th), Benin (25th) and South Korea (34th) are the highest-ranked countries in other continents.

In terms of press freedom, the small Caribbean state of Trinidad and Tobago (12th) is still the top-ranked country in the Americas. El Salvador (28th)-a still-fragile democracy after years of civil war-came in second, followed, as it was last year, by Costa Rica (41st), Bolivia (45th), Uruguay (46th) and Chile (50th), where attacks on press freedom usually amount to intimidation and threats.

Argentina (59th) rose sharply in the Index because there were fewer physical attacks on journalists, the media won a fight to preserve source confidentiality and the press offense laws were relaxed.

No journalists were killed this year in Peru (116th) but violence against journalists has soared to more than 30 incidents-60 in all, if we include incidents involving threats and intimidation.

Journalists face high-risk working conditions in Haiti (117th),, despite the greater press freedom enjoyed since former president Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted in February 2004.

Jacques Roche, of the daily paper Le Matin, was murdered on July 14, and Nancy Roc of Radio Metropole was forced to seek asylum abroad on June 16 after she was given kidnapping threats. Her radio station manager, Richard Widmaier, had narrowly escaped a kidnapping attempt five days earlier.

Colombia (128th), second to last among American continent countries, moved up this year ahead of Mexico (135th), as press freedom is deteriorating in countries bordering the US.

The Mexican media have been focusing on a "Black April," when two journalists were murdered and a third disappeared in just one week.

In Colombia, Julio Palacios Sánchez of Radio Lemas, was shot dead on January 11 in a region dominated by drug traffic and riddled with corruption. So far this year, broadcasting equipment has been routinely sabotaged and seven journalists have had to flee the region or the country.

Two more journalists were jailed in Cuba (161st), in addition to the 21 who have been held since the March 2003 crackdown. One of them, Oscar Mario González Pérez, faces 20 years in prison under Law 88, passed to protect "national independence and the economy."

North Korea once again ranks last in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index. North Korea is in last place (167th), closely preceded by Eritrea (166th) and Turkmenistan (165th), the other "black holes" for news where the privately-owned media is non-existent and there is no freedom of expression.

Journalists working for the "official" media in these countries are little more than mouthpieces for government propaganda. Anyone out of step is harshly dealt with : one word too many, any commentary that deviates from the official party line, a misspelled name-and the author may be thrown in prison or incur the wrath of those in power. Harassment, psychological pressure, intimidation and 24-hour surveillance are routine.

The Index also chronicles countries in such regions as East Asia (Burma 163rd, China 159th, Vietnam 158th, Laos 155th), Central Asia (Turkmenistan 165th, Uzbekistan 155th, Afghanistan 125th, Kazakhstan 119th) and the Middle East (Iran 164th, Iraq 157th, Saudi Arabia 154th, Syria 145th) – regions where journalists face the greatest risks and where government repression or armed groups prevent the media from operating freely.

The situation in Iraq (157th) worsened in 2005 when the safety of journalists became even more precarious than in 2004. At least 24 journalists and media assistants have been killed so far this year, making it the mostly deadly conflict for the media since World War II-a conflict that proved more deadly for the media in a few months than during the entire Vietnam War. A total of 72 media workers have been killed since the fighting began in March 2003.

But a growing number of African and Latin American countries have earned very respectable rankings: Benin 25th, Namibia 25th, El Salvador 28th, Cape Verde 29th, Mauritius 34th, Mali 37th, Costa Rica 41st and Bolivia 45th.

The Leaders

Leading the Index once again are northern European countries Denmark, Finland, Ireland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands, where robust press freedom is alive and well. The top 10 are all European. The highest-ranking countries in other continents are New Zealand (12th), Trinidad and Tobago (12th), Benin (25th) and South Korea (34th).

Countries that have recently won or regained their independence value press freedom very highly, thereby disproving the fallacy advocated by many authoritarian leaders that democracy takes decades to establish itself. Nine states, that have only existed, or regained their independence, within the past 15 years, are found among the top 60 countries in the Index : Slovenia (9th), Estonia (11th), Latvia (16th), Lithuania (21st), Namibia (25th), Bosnia-Herzegovina (33rd), Macedonia (43rd), Croatia (56th) and East Timor (58th).

The Index also refutes the theory frequently advanced by leaders of poor and repressive countries that economic development is a vital prerequisite for democracy and the respect for human rights. The top portion of the Index is heavily dominated not only by rich, but also by very poor, countries (the latter having a per capita GDP of less than $1,000 in 2003). The top 60 countries include Benin (25th), Mali (37th), Bolivia (45th), Mozambique (49th), Mongolia (53rd), Niger (57th) and East Timor (58th).

The ranking
N° Country Note
1 Denmark 0,50
– Finland 0,50
– Iceland 0,50
– Ireland 0,50
– Netherlands 0,50
– Norway 0,50
– Switzerland 0,50
8 Slovakia 0,75
9 Czech Republic 1,00
– Slovenia 1,00
11 Estonia 1,50
12 Hungary 2,00
– New Zealand 2,00
– Sweden 2,00
– Trinidad and Tobago 2,00
16 Austria 2,50
– Latvia 2,50
18 Belgium 4,00
– Germany 4,00
– Greece 4,00
21 Canada 4,50
– Lithuania 4,50
23 Portugal 4,83
24 United Kingdom 5,17
25 Benin 5,50
– Cyprus 5,50
– Namibia 5,50
28 El Salvador 5,75
29 Cape Verde 6,00
30 France 6,25
31 Australia 6,50
– South Africa 6,50
33 Bosnia and Herzegovina 7,00
34 Jamaica 7,50
– Mauritius 7,50
– South Korea 7,50
37 Japan 8,00
– Mali 8,00
39 Hong-Kong 8,25
40 Spain 8,33
41 Costa Rica 8,50
42 Italy 8,67
43 Macedonia 8,75
44 United States of America (American territory) 9,50
45 Bolivia 9,67
46 Uruguay 9,75
47 Israel 10,00
48 Bulgaria 10,25
49 Mozambique 10,50
50 Chile 11,75
51 Dominican Republic 12,25
– Taiwan 12,25
53 Cyprus (North) 12,50
– Mongolia 12,50
– Poland 12,50
56 Croatia 12,83
57 Niger 13,00
58 Timor-Leste 13,50
59 Argentina 13,67
60 Botswana 14,00
– Fiji 14,00
62 Albania 14,17
63 Brazil 14,50
– Tonga 14,50
65 Serbia and Montenegro 14,83
66 Ghana 15,00
– Panama 15,00
68 Nicaragua 15,25
69 Paraguay 15,50
70 Romania 16,17
71 Congo 17,00
– Guinea-Bissau 17,00
– Seychelles 17,00
74 Moldova 17,50
– Tanzania 17,50
76 Angola 18,00
– Honduras 18,00
78 Burkina Faso 19,00
– Senegal 19,00
80 Uganda 19,25
81 Lesotho 19,50
82 Central African Republic 19,75
83 Cameroon 20,50
– Liberia 20,50
85 Kuwait 21,25
86 Guatemala 21,50
87 Ecuador 21,75
88 Comoros 22,00
89 Malawi 22,75
90 Burundi 23,00
– Cambodia 23,00
– Qatar 23,00
– Venezuela 23,00
– Zambia 23,00
95 Togo 23,75
96 Jordan 24,00
97 Madagascar 24,50
98 Turkey 25,00
99 Georgia 25,17
100 Kosovo 25,75
– United Arab Emirates 25,75
102 Armenia 26,00
– Gabon 26,00
– Guinea 26,00
– Indonesia 26,00
106 India 27,00
107 Thailand 28,00
108 Lebanon 28,25
109 Chad 30,00
– Kenya 30,00
111 Kyrgyzstan 32,00
112 Ukraine 32,50
113 Malaysia 33,00
– Tajikistan 33,00
115 Sri Lanka 33,25
116 Peru 33,33
117 Haiti 33,50
118 Swaziland 35,00
119 Kazakhstan 36,17
– Morocco 36,17
121 Djibouti 37,00
122 Rwanda 38,00
123 Bahrein 38,75
– Nigeria 38,75
125 Afghanistan 39,17
126 Sierra Leone 39,50
127 Mauritania 40,00
128 Colombia 40,17
129 Algeria 40,33
130 Gambia 41,00
131 Ethiopia 42,00
132 Palestinian Authority 42,50
133 Equatorial Guinea 44,00
– Sudan 44,00
135 Mexico 45,50
136 Yemen 46,25
137 United States of America (in Iraq) 48,50
138 Russia 48,67
139 Philippines 50,00
140 Singapore 50,67
141 Azerbaijan 51,00
142 Bhutan 51,50
143 Egypt 52,00
144 Côte d’Ivoire 52,25
145 Syria 55,00
146 Democratic Republic of Congo 57,33
147 Tunisia 57,50
148 Maldives 58,50
149 Somalia 59,00
150 Pakistan 60,75
151 Bangladesh 61,25
152 Belarus 61,33
153 Zimbabwe 64,25
154 Saudi Arabia 66,00
155 Laos 66,50
– Uzbekistan 66,50
157 Iraq 67,00
158 Vietnam 73,25
159 China 83,00
160 Nepal 86,75
161 Cuba 87,00
162 Libya 88,75
163 Burma 88,83
164 Iran 89,17
165 Turkmenistan 93,50
166 Eritrea 99,75
167 North Korea 109,00

Reporters Without Borders –


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