Looking at the three lowest-ranking countries on the Press Freedom Index and the state of the press and journalists there.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) have published their ‘Press Freedom Index’ every year since 2002. This Index does not reflect on the ‘quality’ of journalism but rather evaluates the freedom of the press in each country through reports, questionnaires and analysis. India has consistently ranked in the lower half of the index and has slipped further down to occupy the 142nd rank. Below are the three lowest-ranking countries on the index, that essentially have the least freedom of free and are known for their suppression of independent journalism.
Ranking 178th is Eritrea perhaps the most secretive African state with one-party, a totalitarian rule that makes any opposition impossible. There is said to be no independent media in the country with all its news coming from the government’s ‘Ministry of Information’. In 1996, the government passed a law banning all private broadcast media and in 2001 actively pursued journalised to quash dissent against the President and shut down any independent media. With very few having access to the internet and strict censorship and monitoring, it is impossible for most to access any media outlets or for journalists to carry out their work with the international media monitoring organisation describing Eritrea as “a dictatorship in which the media have no rights”. There are, however, the likes of ‘J’ who anonymously runs a page called the Eritrean Press that has more than 250,000 followers and reports on happenings inside the secretive state. Not even the page’s eight volunteers know his real name as it would endanger his life.
Ranking 179th, Turkmenistan is known for its heavily regulated press that makes it impossible to report anything that deviates from government lines or is critical of the President. With a single state news agency and a few magazines in newspapers that are said to be expensive and their content highly censored. The media elevates the President to a God-like status and pushes the government’s praise. While it is technically possible to set up private broadcasting channels, it is expected that they promote a positive image only. Authorities are also known to periodically remove satellite dishes from houses, supposedly to make the cities more visually appealing and cutting off the public’s access to any unregulated broadcasts. Ruslan Myatiev, the founder and editor of ‘Alternative Turkmenistan News’, an outlet based in the Netherlands, says “we have cases where floods have taken over entire cities and nobody reports about it. We have accidents. We have murders. We have corrupt officials that are put in jail for corruption, and nobody reports about it”. And with severe punishment for journalists or whistleblowers that dare raise their voice, it is no surprise why.
Ranking 180th, the lowest possible rank, North Korea is perhaps the best modern-day example of a tightly regulated and tool that does nothing for the disseminating facts or information but serves as a propaganda outlet. This year, Reporters Without Borders ranked North Korea at the bottom of its yearly Press Freedom Index and this is no surprise considering all North Korean ‘journalists’ are members of the Workers’ Party and are thoroughly screened before even being allowed to work in the field. North Korea uses its media to push the usual propaganda, whether it is elevating the leaders and the country’s image to the highest possible, almost divine levels, or by carefully manipulating the news to distract from an issue or pacify the people. An example of the media playing into the leadership’s cult of personality is the media reporting Russian authorities as being “awestruck” by Kim Jong-il’s ability to “stop the rain and make the sun come out” during his visit to Russia in 2001. The media also regularly blasts news to draw attention away from issues such as when the media hid the death of Kim Jong-il for two days or failed to report on domestic issues and the widespread famines.
Feature Image Credits: News Laundry
Tashi Dorjay Sherpa