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Jamaica 8th on global press freedom ranking

Published:Wednesday | April 26, 2017 | 12:00 AMChristopher Serju

Jamaica has jumped two places to eighth on the 2017 World Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders yesterday, while North Korea eclipsed Eritrea for the last spot on the 180-country ranking.

Norway, Sweden, and Finland are the top three countries, while Costa Rica, which retained its sixth-place ranking, is the only other country in the Americas to make it into the top 10.

The latest compilation reflects a world in which attacks on the media have become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise, the authors lamented, pointing to the devastating impact of seismic geopolitical eruptions on press freedom.

"The obsession with surveillance and violations of the right to the confidentiality of sources haven (sic) contributed to the continuing decline of many countries previously regarded as virtuous. This includes the United States (down two places at 43rd), the United Kingdom (down two at 40th), Chile (down two at 33rd), and New Zealand (down eight at 13th).

Donald Trump's rise to power in the United States and the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom were marked by high-profile media bashing, a highly toxic anti-media discourse that drove the world into a new era of post-truth, disinformation, and fake news, the report noted. "We have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms - especially in democracies.


Freedoms not secure


"The rate at which democracies are approaching the tipping point is alarming for all those who understand that if media freedom is not secure, then none of the other freedoms can be guaranteed," said Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

Suriname, at 20, is two places ahead of the Canada; while Trinidad, at 34, is the next best-placed regional country, with the Organisation Eastern Caribbean States at 38.

Haiti, at 53, is well ahead of neighbouring Dominica Republic at 59, while Guyana sits in the 60th spot.

The document goes on to highlight that the Middle East and North Africa region, which has ongoing wars in Yemen (down four at 166th) as well as Syria, continues to be the world's most difficult and dangerous region for journalists. Eastern Europe and Central Asia, the second-worst region, does not lag far behind.

Nearly two-thirds of its countries are ranked below or around the 150th mark in the Index. In addition to Turkey's downward spiral, 2016 was marked by a clampdown on independent media in Russia, while the despots in such former Soviet republics as Tajikistan (149th), Turkmenistan (178th), and Azerbaijan (162nd) perfected their systems of control and repression.

"The Asia-Pacific region is the third-worst violator overall but holds many of the worst kinds of records. Two of its countries, China (176th) and Vietnam (175th), are the world's biggest prisons for journalists and bloggers. It has some of the most dangerous countries for journalists: Pakistan (139th), Philippines (127th), and Bangladesh (146th). It also has the biggest number of "press freedom predators" at the head of the world's worst dictatorships, including China, North Korea (180th), and Laos (170th), which are news and information black holes."