Snapshot of Global Media Freedom (Part. 1)

In 2013 the World Press Freedom Index served as a stark reminder of the challenges journalists faced worldwide. This analysis presents the state of media freedom, examining events and conditions across different regions.

East Africa: A Region in Peril

Somalia (175th, -11): In Somalia, the year 2012 marked the deadliest period in the country’s media history, with 18 journalists killed in bomb attacks or as direct targets. The nation stood as the second most dangerous place in the world for journalists, surpassed only by Syria.

Eritrea (Last Place for the Sixth Consecutive Year): Eritrea, ranking last for the sixth year running, remains Africa’s most extensive prison for journalists, with at least 30 behind bars. Shockingly, of the 11 journalists imprisoned since 2001, seven died due to prison conditions or took their own lives. Eritrea’s media landscape has been devoid of independent voices for over a decade, fostering an environment of terror.

Ongoing Censorship in East Africa: The region struggles with censorship and crackdowns, with countries like Sudan, Djibouti, and Ethiopia facing issues related to freedom of the press and the safety of journalists.

Challenges in Mali and the Central African Republic

Mali (99th, -74): Mali, once celebrated for its democratic values and press freedom, fell from grace in 2012. The military coup in Bamako and the seizure of the northern regions by separatists and extremists exposed journalists to censorship and abuse.

Central African Republic (Not Included in the Index): Events after the outbreak of the Seleka rebellion at the end of 2012 were not included in this index. The situation was dire, with radio stations ransacked and journalists at risk.

Africa’s Predatory Censors

Yahya Jammeh, King Mswati III, Paul Kagame, Teodoro Obiang Nguema: These leaders, among others, held a tight grip on their countries, stifling media pluralism and discouraging criticism. Their countries, Gambia, Swaziland, Rwanda, and Equatorial Guinea, ranked among the bottom 30 in the index.

Challenges in Chad, Zimbabwe, South Sudan, and Cameroon

Chad (121st, -18): Journalists faced harassment, the suspension of newspapers, and repressive legislation in Chad. The slow but steady progress witnessed after the formation of a national unity government seemed to have stalled.

Zimbabwe (133rd, -16): Progress made in the years following the formation of a national unity government appeared to stagnate. Violence and arrests of journalists persisted, creating a tense atmosphere as elections loomed.

South Sudan (124th): The murder of a columnist marked a dark moment in the new country’s history, and journalists awaited the approval of three new media-related laws.

Cameroon (120th, -23): Despite a national media conference, the sector’s future remained uncertain and troubling.

Positive Gains in Malawi, Ivory Coast, Uganda, Senegal, and Liberia

Malawi (75th): After a tumultuous period, marked by dictatorial behavior and violent crackdowns, Malawi recorded the largest jump in the index, a remarkable climb of 71 places.

Ivory Coast (96th): Despite persistent challenges, the country improved, with President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf’s commitment to promoting media freedom contributing to the positive atmosphere.

Uganda (104th): A better year led to a notable rise in the ranking. However, threats to radio stations remained a concern.

Senegal (59th, +16): The presidential election unfolded peacefully, raising hope for the media, but challenges and the imprisonment of a journalist loomed.

Liberia (97th, +13): The situation improved considerably, with an atmosphere more conducive to journalism after a turbulent period.

In the Middle East/North Africa: Two Years of Transformation

The “Arab Spring” uprisings continued to influence press freedom in the Middle East/North Africa region. Syria and Bahrain ranked among the worst countries for media freedom.

Syria (176th): The conflict in Syria led to numerous attacks on freedom of information, with journalists targeted by all parties involved in the conflict.

Bahrain (165th): Bahrain experienced limited improvement, although government crackdowns persisted. The country fell 66 places in four years.

Promising Revolutions for Freedom of Information?

Libya (131st, +23): Libya’s improvement was attributed to the overthrow of Gaddafi’s regime, resulting in enhanced freedom of information. However, further reforms were needed to guarantee media freedom.

Tunisia (138th): The country slipped in the rankings, reflecting increased attacks on journalists and delays in implementing media-related laws.

Egypt (158th): After the 2011 turmoil, Egypt witnessed a slight improvement. However, journalists and netizens remained targets of physical attacks, arrests, and trials.

Yemen (171st, +2): Despite minimal legislative changes, journalists continued to face physical attacks and legal prosecution.

Countries “Spared” by Arab Springs Clamp Down

Oman (141st): The Sultanate of Oman experienced a significant fall in rankings, with numerous netizens and bloggers facing prosecution. Promised reforms failed to materialize.

Jordan (134th, -6): A repressive royal decree and restrictive press law changes contributed to Jordan’s fall. Journalists were tried before military courts, especially when criticizing the royal family.

Algeria (125th, -3): Journalists faced physical attacks and judicial proceedings, while the media experienced economic pressures.

Stable Rankings and Challenges

Morocco (136th), Palestine (146th), Iraq (150th), Saudi Arabia (163rd), Kuwait (77th), and the United Arab Emirates (114th) witnessed relatively stable rankings, each facing unique challenges.

Lebanon (101st): Lebanon’s media became polarized due to the Syrian civil war, resulting in increased attacks on journalists and arbitrary detentions.

Israel (112th): Israel’s ranking fell due to the Israel Defense Forces’ actions in the Palestinian Territories. The arbitrary arrest of Palestinian journalists remained commonplace.

The World Press Freedom Index for 2013 paints a complex picture of media freedom worldwide. Journalists across the globe faced a multitude of challenges, from violence and censorship to legal pressures and political unrest. Despite the obstacles, the pursuit of truth and journalistic integrity remained undeterred, serving as a testament to the resilience of the profession.

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