Repression inc.

Global advocacy group Reporters Without Borders is regularly criticised for its alleged bias against countries not friendly to the US. It’s often a fair call, but nonetheless, the group still produces, in my opinion, important studies about repression of journalists in non-democratic countries.

Its 2007 Worldwide Press Freedom Index has just been released. Australia is far down the list, number 28, below Costa Rica, Namibia and Jamaica. The report states:

Eritrea has replaced North Korea in last place in an index measuring the level of press freedom in 169 countries throughout the world that is published today by Reporters Without Borders for the sixth year running.

“There is nothing surprising about this,” Reporters Without Borders said. “Even if we are not aware of all the press freedom violations in North Korea and Turkmenistan, which are second and third from last, Eritrea deserves to be at the bottom. The privately-owned press has been banished by the authoritarian President Issaias Afeworki and the few journalists who dare to criticise the regime are thrown in prison. We know that four of them have died in detention and we have every reason to fear that others will suffer the same fate.”

Outside Europe – in which the top 14 countries are located – no region of the world has been spared censorship or violence towards journalists.

Of the 20 countries at the bottom of the index, seven are Asian (Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Laos, Vietnam, China, Burma, and North Korea), five are African (Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Libya, Somalia and Eritrea), four are in the Middle East (Syria, Iraq, Palestinian Territories and Iran), three are former Soviet republics (Belarus, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan) and one is in the Americas (Cuba).