Watchdog: Press freedom around the world worsening

Reporters Without Borders blames armed groups and governments that use national security excuse to restrict freedoms.

Worldwide press freedom is worsening, with journalists in many countries facing lethal threats to their lives, Reporters Without Borders has said.

The Paris-based organisation said on Thursday in its 2015 annual press freedom index that “powerful non-government groups that do not tolerate unfavorable reporting pose a lethal threat to journalists in many countries”.

The report came as two Al Jazeera journalists appeared in a Cairo court for a retrial due to lack of evidence over alleged links to the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood.

The retrial of Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed, that begun on Thursday, was ordered by the Court of Cessation last month, overturning a lower court’s verdict which found them guilty of aiding the outlawed group.

The two men have been in prison for more than 400 days.

Reporters Without Borders singled out the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), Nigeria’s armed group Boko Haram, various armed groups in Libya as well as paramilitary and criminal organisations in countries such as Colombia and Mexico as the biggest threats to journalists’ lives.

“Islamic State has no scruples about eliminating any journalist regarded as an enemy,” Reporters Without Borders said, using the group’s alternative name.

“Sama Salah Aldeen TV cameraman Raad Mohamed Al-Azaoui was publicly executed in Samara on 10 October for refusing to cooperate with IS. Most of Mosul’s journalists have fled the city for fear of reprisals.”

Proliferation of conflict 

The annual index covered 180 countries and is based on a survey of all aspects of independent journalistic work.

The survey, with 87 questions, is sent out to hundreds of journalists, researchers, lawyers and human rights activists worldwide.

Questions focus on media diversity, media independence, the journalist environment and self-censorship, among others.

The report said the main reason for the worrying decline in press freedom was proliferation of conflict, citing conflict zones such as the Middle East, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq.

It also blames governments that have imposed restrictions on the media in the name of national security. 

“All warring parties without exception waged a fearsome information war. The media, used for propaganda purposes or starved of information, became strategic targets and were attacked, even silenced,” Reporters Without Borders said.

It said Western European countries saw a decline in media freedoms, citing Italy and Iceland.

The Middle East, Eastern Europe and much of Asia did not fare well, with the index showing that many countries had “noticeable problems”, “difficult situation” or “very difficult situation”, the lowest ranking which denotes serious media rights violations.

Namibia topped the list in Africa with “good situation,” the highest ranking on the index. Canada, New Zealand and Scandinavian countries such as Denmark, Finland and Norway are also high up on the index. The US has “satisfactory situation”, which is the group’s second ranking. 

Source: Al Jazeera