Ukraine not trailing in press freedom, but hardly dazzling either


Ukraine holds 105th place out of 168 countries in terms of level of press freedom, according to the Reporters without Borders Worldwide Press Freedom Index.

The worst violators of free expression, according to the report, are  North Korea, bottom of the Index at 168th place, Turkmenistan (167th) and Eritrea (166th).  Concern is expressed over the death of Radio Svoboda journalist Ogulsapar Muradova who died in a Turkmenistan prison in September this year. Information available suggests that she had been tortured, and that psychotropic drugs had been applied.

Russia which is experiencing a steady deterioration in press freedom, with the purchase of independent outlets by industrial groups close to the President, Vladimir Putin, the suspension in the activities of some nongovernmental organizations, the unsolved and unpunished murder of journalists (in particular those of the editor of the Forbes Journal Paul Khlebnikov and the “Novaya Gazeta” correspondent Anna Politkovskaya, is in 147th place.

Of other CIS countries Uzbekistan is in 155th place.  In September it was reported that the nephew of the Uzbekistan President, the independent journalist Dzhamshida Karimova is being forcibly held in a psychiatric hospital. Belarus is in 151st place, while Ukraine is no. 105 on the Index.

First place for freedom of the press was shared by Finland, Ireland, Iceland and the Netherlands where there were no recorded cases of censorship, threats, intimidation or physical reprisals against journalists. The first 15 places, aside from Norway in sixth place, were all held by countries of the European Union. The worst rating for EU countries was received by Poland in 58th position, in particular over the prosecution of a newspaper which published a satirical article on President Kaczynski.

The USA dropped 36 places in comparison with 2002, to be in 53rd place as a result of statements by George Bush regarding suspicions of any journalist who has doubts about the “war on terrorism”, as well as over the powers used by federal courts to demand that media outlets reveal their sources.

France, where searches are continuing of the editorial offices of newspapers and of journalists’ homes, is no. 35 on the Index, 24 places down on five years ago. The rise in nationalist sentiments and creation of exclusive press clubs in Japan have lowered the rating of this country by 14 points from last year (51st place).  Denmark took 19th place, losing its leadership over the scandal around the publication of cartoons of the Prophet Muhammed.

There has been significant press liberalization in Arab countries, though not with the Lebanese media whose rating has halved as a result of the Lebanese – Israeli conflict (from 56th to 107th place over five years). The level of press freedom in neighbouring Middle East countries also received low ratings, with Israel in 135th place, and the Palestinian Authority one point higher, at 134.

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