By Tom Bannister
Reporters Without Borders have just released the latest World Press Freedom Index, an annual report that ranks the freedom of the press in every country. 179 were listed in this year’s report and China achieved a miserable 173rd place, one better than last year.
China’s continued poor performance is no surprise, especially coming so soon after this month’s Southern Weekly incident. Reporters Without Borders had this to say about China and Vietnam, who ranked one higher than China at 172nd place:
“In Vietnam and China, those involved in online news and information, such as bloggers and netizens, are forced to deal with increasingly harsh repression. Many Tibetan monks have been convicted or abducted for having sent information abroad about the disastrous state of human rights in Tibet. Commercial news outlets and foreign media organizations are still censored regularly by the propaganda department. Faced with the growing power of social networks and their ability to muster support, the authorities have redoubled their efforts to hone their capability to track “sensitive” content and delete it immediately from the web”
Elsewhere in Asia, Japan came 53rd, a whopping 31 places worse than 2012, and the biggest fall in Asia. Their poor performance was largely due to restricted press access and censorship during the Fukushima disaster. Taiwan came in at 47th, two places worse than last year. Close-by was Hong Kong at 58th place, 4 down from 2012. Press freedom in the city has significantly eroded since its return to China. In 2002, Hong Kong was ranked 18th.
The same three countries as last year came top and bottom. Finland topped the rankings for the third year in a row, followed by the Netherlands and Norway. Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea once again propped up the table at the bottom.