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Press Freedom Under Threat in Asia

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Asian countries have ranked poorly in the Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2007, released on October 16th.  Seven of the 20 countries at the bottom of the index are Asian, including North Korea, Burma and China.

On 16 October 2007 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) released the “Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2007.” Seven of the 20 countries at the bottom of the index are in Asia including Pakistan (152nd), Sri Lanka (156th), Laos (161st), Vietnam (162nd), China (163th), Burma (164th) and North Korea (168th).

“We are particularly disturbed by the situation in Burma (164th),” said RSF, adding regret that China (163rd) is near the bottom. “With less than a year to go to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, the reforms and the releases of imprisoned journalists so often promised by the authorities seem to be a vain hope.”

Thailand (135th) fell in the ranking as a result of the military coup. The military “prevented the deposed prime minister’s supporters from launching a TV station, and several website editors and bloggers were arrested,” the report said. Pakistan (152nd) keeps its low ranking, since “TV stations were prevented from working freely and dozens of reporters were beaten and arrested during a crisis precipitated by Musharraf’s dismissal of the supreme court president.”

War is responsible for low positions of countries like Afghanistan (142nd) or Sri Lanka (156th). Nepal jumped more than 20 places as a result of the ceasefire, despite the fact that “ethnic violence in the south of the country exposed journalists to new dangers.”

Cambodia (85th) climbed a few ranks as the government decided to decriminalise press offences. Philippines (128th) had fewer murders than in previous years and Japan (37th) has seen a “letup in attacks on the press by militant nationalists.”

This is the sixth year that RSF has published the index, making it a definitive report on the degree of freedom journalists and media have in 169 countries. To compile this index, RSF sends questionnaires to freedom of expression organisations, its network of 130 correspondents, and journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists. The questionnaire contained 50 questions about press freedom in their respective countries.

Read the Worldwide Press Freedom Index 2007 (in .pdf)