The surprising improvement was Ethiopia which climbed 40 places from the previous rankings to reflect Abiy Ahmed’s reforms.
“The only security of all is in a free press.”
― Thomas Jefferson
The just released 2019 World Press Freedom Index published by the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has revealed that while there is still a lot to be done in the area of press freedom around Africa, some countries are showing tangible progress in this regard and are worthy of emulation.
Countries like Gambia and Ethiopia which were known as usual low bench-marked countries in the free press ranking made tangible progress and marked improvements in the 2019 Press Freedom Index.
The 2019 World Press Freedom Index categorized the media climate in more than three-fourths of the 180 countries and territories studied as “problematic”, “difficult” or “very serious.”
Only 8% have a media climate considered “good”.
“Democracy is in great danger,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of the utmost urgency of all people.”
In Africa, Ethiopia climbed 40 places from near the bottom to 110, reflecting the reforms by the country’s Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed.
You will recall that upon assuming office just a year ago, Abiy’s government has released thousands of political prisoners including journalists and bloggers, in addition to dropping charges against media outlets in Diaspora.
The Gambia also moved up in rank to 92, putting it 30 spots higher than last year.
The publishers of the report, Reporters Without Borders, attributes the progress to a change in government, under which the human rights climate in the country has greatly improved.
‘‘New media outlets have been created, journalists have returned from self-imposed exile and the criminalization of defamation has been declared unconstitutional,’‘ the RSF report said of Gambia.
The degree of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries is determined by pooling the responses of experts to a questionnaire devised by RSF.
This qualitative analysis is combined with quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated.
The criteria evaluated in the questionnaire are pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.
According to another report published by RSF, 80 journalists were killed worldwide in 2018, up from 65 in 2017. Forty-nine of these were journalists deliberately killed because of their reporting. A total of 348 journalists were detained.
“It’s worse every year,” Cédric Alviani, the East-Asia Bureau Director of RSF said.
“Democracies seem to be giving up, while increasingly authoritarian governments are silencing the media.”
• Namibia is Africa’s top country for press freedom
• Press freedom in 22 of sub-Saharan Africa’s 48 countries is classified as either “bad” or “very bad”.
• For the first time in more than ten years, no journalist was in prison in Ethiopia, at the end of 2018.
• Somalia is Africa’s deadliest country for journalists. ( 3 journalists were killed there in 2018)
• Ghana’s reputation as Africa’s top country for press freedom was hurt by the murder of an investigative journalist in January this year.
• The Democratic Republic of Congo registered the most press freedom violations in 2018.
Quotes and summary Credit: African News
Header Image Credit: The Conversation
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