Watch­dog group is­sues dis­mal re­port on global press free­dom

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL -

Jour­nal­ists in many parts of the world face de­te­ri­o­rat­ing re­port­ing con­di­tions, with a democ­racy watch­dog group not­ing a sharp decline in global press free­dom in 2014.

In its an­nual re­port re­leased Wed­nes­day, the group Free­dom House says global press free­dom de­clined last year to its low­est point in more than 10 years. Only one in seven peo­ple live in coun­tries where cov­er­age of po­lit­i­cal news is strong, jour­nal­ists’ safety is guar­an­teed and state med­dling in me­dia af­fairs is mi­nor, Free- dom House said.

The worst of­fend­ers on the Free­dom House list were: Be­larus, Crimea, Cuba, Equa­to­rial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Syria, Turk­menistan and Uzbek­istan.

Ranked best: Nor­way, Swe­den and Bel­gium. The United States was ranked 34th on the list of 199 coun­tries and ter­ri­to­ries as­sessed.

Free­dom House says one main fac­tor driv­ing the decline was newly passed re­stric­tive laws against the me­dia. The re­port cited laws in Rus­sia and Mex­ico that place new con­trols on blogs. Phys­i­cal vi­o­lence and in­tim­i­da­tion of jour­nal­ists con­tin­ued to be a prob­lem, es­pe­cially in places such as Syria and Nige­ria.

“Gov­ern­ments used se­cu­rity or anti-ter­ror­ism laws as a pre­text to si­lence crit­i­cal voices,” said the re­port’s project manager, Jen­nifer Dun­ham. “Mil­i­tant groups and crim­i­nal gangs used in­creas­ingly brazen tac­tics to in­tim­i­date jour­nal­ists, and me­dia own­ers at­tempted to ma­nip­u­late news con­tent to serve their po­lit­i­cal or busi­ness in­ter­ests.”

Free­dom House ranks coun- tries as free, partly free or not free. Of the coun­tries it looked at last year, it found 63, or 32 per­cent, as free; 71, or 36 per­cent, as partly free; and 65, or 32 per­cent, as not free.

De­spite the re­cent diplo­matic open­ing be­tween the United States and Cuba, and the re­lease of dozens of po­lit­i­cal pris­on­ers late last year — the re­port notes that jour­nal­ists re­mained be­hind bars in Cuba in 2014 and of­fi­cial cen­sor­ship re­mained per­va­sive, leav­ing Cuba as one of the 10 worst of­fend­ers on the group’s list.

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