The Paris-based “Reporters Without Borders” rated Indian press freedom marginally higher to 105 (from 106) in a list of 168 nations and most South Asian nations to pathetically low numbers while North Korea and Eritrea rated the worst.
According to the independent body, Indian index slipped from 80 in 2002 to 106 last year on the Press Freedom Index but has marginally improved this year because of harassment and arrests of journalists and closures of newspapers reprinting distasteful cartoons depicting Islamic Prophet Mohammed in uncharitable ways. Other countries that got dragged into the same controversy are Yemen (149th), Algeria (126th), Jordan (109th) and Denmark (19th). Pakistan started off badly but official and officially supported terrorist groups’ persecution of journalists saw its ranks slip from 150 to 157 (it was 119th in 2002). Bhutan was the only exception in South Asia.
The US’s position plummeted from 17th place in 2002 to 53rd place this year, largely due to deteriorating relations between the Bush administration and federal courts and the media. France’s security-versus-press freedom tensions saw its position tumble to 35th rank — a loss of 24 places in five years.
Tied for the first place, indicating maximum press freedom were Finland, Iceland, Ireland,
and Netherlands an apparent reflection of the Governments’ refusal to restrain the press depicting Islamic Prophet Mohammed in bad light.
The worst offenders were North Korea, Turkmenistan and Eritrea, occupying 168, 167 and 166 places respectively. Unexpectedly, Haiti jumped from 125th to 87th place in the two years since former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide fled the turmoil- torn country. Although the murderers of journalists are still at large, the violence against journalists has largely stopped.