Turkmenistan now worst place for journalism, US slips too
The index, an annual review of 180 countries and their relationship with the media, was released by the Reporters Without Borders, also known as Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), on Thursday.
This year’s index also saw central Asian country Turkmenistan edging out North Korea as the worst place for journalism and the United States ranking going down by three notches.
Norway ranked topmost in the index for the third time in a row.
The report says that “tougher politics” coupled with “more press freedom violations” resulted in Bangladesh’s decline in the index.
It said, Bangladeshi journalists have been among the “leading collateral victims of the tough methods adopted” by the Sheikh Hasina-led ruling Awami League government.
The RSF also said that Prime Minister Hasina’s re-election in the December 30 general election was “accompanied by a disturbing increase in press freedom violations, including violence by political activists against reporters in the field, arbitrary blocking of news websites, and arbitrary arrests of journalists.”
Bangladesh government also used the judiciary “to silence those who annoy” them, said the report citing the detention of photojournalist, Shahidul Alam for over 100 days as an example.
The report also expressed concern over the Digital Security Act, and the rise of radical Islamist militants, who continue to harass and murder journalists and bloggers.
RSF in a statement also said that hostility towards journalists, expressed by political leaders in many countries, has incited increasingly serious and frequent acts of violence, that have fuelled an unprecedented level of fear and danger for journalists.
the political debate slides, surreptitiously or openly, towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said.
“Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of utmost urgency for all people of good will, who value the freedoms acquired in the course of history,” he added.
As Turkmenistan slips down two steps from last year’s 178th to 180th – the worst slot available –RSF says: “The Turkmen government controls all media and the few internet users are able to access only a highly-censored version of the internet.”
The United States has fallen three places in the index to 48th, and the media climate there has been classified as “problematic,” since US journalists have been facing untoward situations due to “an increasingly hostile climate” under Donald Trump’s administration.
RSF says: “US press freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment to the 1787 constitution, has been under increasing attack over the past few years, and the first year of President Donald J. Trump’s presidency has fostered further decline in journalists’ right to report.”
“He (President Donald J Trump) has declared the press an “enemy of the American people” in a series of verbal attacks toward journalists, attempted to block White House access to multiple media outlets, and routinely uses the term “fake news” in retaliation for critical reporting. He has even called for revoking certain media outlets’ broadcasting licenses.”
Norway on top, again
ranked topmost in the 2019 index for the third time in a row, followed by Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, and Denmark.
Only 24% percent of the 180 countries and territories have been classified as “good” or “fairly good,” as opposed to 26% percent last year.
Bangladesh’s neighbour India, ranked 140th, just two spots ahead of Pakistan, which came at 142nd, while Myanmar ranked 138th.
Published annually by RSF since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index measures the level of media freedom, assessing the level of pluralism, media independence, the environment for the media and self-censorship, the legal framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.
The index, however, does not evaluate government policy.