CATHOLIC NEWS OF THE WEEK . Sunday, 1 September 2019

Print Version    Email to Friend
Hong Kong down Myanmar up media index

Bangkok (Agencies): Myanmar’s paper revolution has brought a sharp improvement in freedom of information in the former pariah state. Citing Agence France Presse, UCA News said that the 2013 Press Freedom Index report from Reporters Without Borders showed the country had bucked a general deterioration across much of Asia. 

Reporters Without Borders noted that thanks to dramatic changes, Myanmar rose to 151 up from 179 on the index, an improvement of 18 places.

The organisation said, “There are no longer any journalists or cyber dissidents in the jails of the old military dictatorship.” 

In August 2012, the Myanmese government announced the end of pre-publication censorship that was a hallmark of decades of military rule which ended in 2011.

“Legislative reform has only just begun but the steps already taken by the government in favour of the media, such as an end to prior censorship and the permitted return of media organisations from exile, are significant steps towards genuine freedom of information,” Reporters Without Borders says in its report.

The blossoming of media freedom stands in stark contrast to worsening repression elsewhere in Asia, according to the Paris-based media watchdog.

Japan fell from 22nd to 53rd place because of censorship related to the accident at the tsunami-hit nuclear power plant in Fukushima, the report notes.

North Korea (178th), China (173rd), Vietnam (172nd) and Laos (168th) all languish near the bottom of the table as they “refuse to grant their citizens the freedom to be informed,” said the media watchdog organisation claims.

“Kim Jong-un’s arrival at the head of the Hermit Kingdom has not in any way changed the regime’s absolute control of news and information,” it noted, referring to state control by Pyongyang.

Malaysia fell 23 places to 145th, its lowest-ever, “because access to information is becoming more and more limited.”

The Indian subcontinent also saw a sharp deterioration, with journalists around the region facing the threat of violence.

In India (140th), “The authorities insist on censoring the web and imposing more and more taboos, while violence against journalists goes unpunished and the regions of Kashmir and Chhattisgarh become increasingly isolated.”

After the Arab Spring and other protest movements that brought many changes in the index in 2012, this year “marks a return to a more usual configuration,” according to the report.

Turkmenistan (177th) and Eritrea (179th) joined North Korea again at the bottom of the table, along with Syria (176th), Somalia (175th) and Iran (174th), while Finland, the Netherlands and Norway retained the top three ranks. 

Meanwhile, the ranking for Hong Kong has fallen to a five-year low, to number 58 among the 179 countries listed. The South China Morning Post reported that when indexing began in 2002, Hong Kong was number 18, but sank to 56 the following year.

The report said that self-censorship remains quite rampant in the Hong Kong media.

More from this section