PH moves up in press freedom rankings but score in media freedom declines

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Screengrab from Reporters Without Borders (World Press Freedom Index; www.rsf.org)

By Corina Oliquino | FilAm Star Correspondent

In the newly-released World Press Freedom Index, the Philippines notches up three spots from 138th to its 2015 finish of 141, but the country saw a decline in its media freedom score.

In its ‘2016 World Press Freedom Index, leaders paranoid about Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) ranked 180 countries according to the freedom allowed to journalists.

“Most of the movement in the World Press Freedom Index unveiled by Reporters Without Borders is indicative of a climate of fear and tension combined with increasing control over newsrooms by governments and private-sector interests,” the report said.

According to RSF’s report, the ranking is also based on the indicators of the level of media freedom variations in each region to evaluate media freedom that measures:

• Pluralism
• Media independence
• Quality of the legal framework
• Safety of journalists in 180 countries

This year’s RSF reported the wide contrast between Europe (still has the “freest media”) with 19.8 points and Africa with 36.9 points, “a region where violence against journalists is on the rise.” America was reported with 37.1 points

Asia followed suit with 43.8 points; Eastern Europe/Central Asia with 48.4 and North Africa/Middle East with 50.8 points where the report said, “(it) is still the region where journalists are most subjected to constraints of every kind.”

Based on this year’s rankings, three North European countries top the evaluation with Finland on the 1st spot, a position they held since 2010. According to RSF, Tunisia is one of the countries that rose from the index, up 30 spots to 96th place the result was prompted by the country’s “decline in violence and legal proceedings.” Ukraine also rose in the index at 107th, now up 22 spots due to the abated conflict in the East country.

The following are the top 10 countries from the index:
1. Finland – 8.59 points
2. Netherlands – 8.76 points
3. Norway – 8.79 points
4. Denmark – 8.89 points
5. New Zealand – 10.01 points
6. Costa Rica – 11.10 points
7. Switzerland – 11.76 points
8. Sweden – 12.33 points
9. Ireland – 12.40 points
10. Jamaica – 12.45 points

While countries such as Poland and Tajikistan fell the farthest due to the “ultra-conservative government (that) seized control of the public media” and “growing authoritarianism”.

The countries at the bottom-list of the index are the following:
171. Cuba – 70.23 points
172. Djibouti – 70.90 points
173. Laos – 71.58 points
174. Sudan – 72.53 points
175. Vietnam – 74.27 points
176. China – 80.96 points
177. Syria – 81.35 points
178. Turkmenistan – 83.44 points
179. North Korea – 83.76 points
180. Entrea – 83.92 points

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

“The climate of fear results in a growing aversion to debate and pluralism, a clamp-down on the media by ever more authoritarian and oppressive governments, and reporting in the privately-owned media that is increasingly shaped by personal interests. 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,” Deloire added.

Philippines
Up by three spots from its 141st ranking in 2015 to this year’s 138th finish, the Philippines, however dropped points in media freedom from last year’s 41.6 to the current 44.66 points.

In an article via news.abs-cbn.com, RSF’s methodology concluded that the higher the figure, the worse the situation is for journalists.

According to RSF, the decline in the Philippines’ score reveals “the limits of the reforms and measures taken to improve media freedom and safety.”

“In the Philippines, journalists carry guns and know how to use them because they are in constant danger,” the report said.

RSF also noted the Maguindanao massacre and the recent execution-style killings in which many (journalists) have been murdered, according to the watchdog, were often committed by “private militias in order to silence reporters investigating them, these murders usually go unpunished.”

“In this climate of terror, media outlets succumb to self-censorship or corruption, in which journalists receive “favors” in exchange for positive coverage,” the report added.

Furthermore, the RSF noted that in the Philippines, the national media are “fairly free”, diversified and “do not hesitate to criticize” the current Aquino administration and emphasized that in the country, “the internet is not subject to any control.”

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