Press freedom in Asia-Pacific has gotten significantly worse – RSF
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Press freedom in Asia-Pacific has gotten significantly worse – RSF

MEDIA freedom has “worsened significantly or stagnated” in most of the Asia-Pacific region, according to the 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

The latest rankings measuring journalistic freedom and independence in 180 countries were released today by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), along with a dire conclusion:

“There has been a deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels.”

The rankings, which have been released annually since 2002, has seen an overall decline in freedom of information from 2013 to 2016, falling 13.6 percent. Every continent’s score has also suffered a drop in this year’s report.

“It is unfortunately clear that many of the world’s leaders are developing a form of paranoia about legitimate journalism,” said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

He added that the “climate of fear” has resulted in a “growing aversion to debate and pluralism” in many countries, which has led to government clampdowns on the media and reporters, as well as an increase in journalism that is influenced by corporate and state agendas due to media ownership, causing a rise in self-censorship.

“Journalism worthy of the name must be defended against the increase in propaganda and media content that is made to order or sponsored by vested interests. Guaranteeing the public’s right to independent and reliable news and information is essential if humankind’s problems, both local and global, are to be solved.”

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The highest ranking country in the Asia-Pacific is Australia at #25, maintaining its position from last year.

Countries in the region which dropped in rankings due to media freedom violations were: South Korea (#70), Japan (#72), Thailand (#136), Singapore (#154), and Brunei (#155). The majority of the nations placed in the “difficult situation” category on the press freedom barometer.

Socialist states such as China, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos remained at the bottom of the rankings, with contraventions to press freedom carried out by authoritarian governments making the situation “very serious” in these countries.

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In putting together the report, RSF measures six indicators of media freedom, namely pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and infrastructure.

It is compiled by means of a questionnaire in 20 languages that is completed by media practitioners and experts from all around the world.