Whilst many of us deplore the way in which the tabloids act on occasions, we can at least console ourselves with the fact that our press is one of the freest in the world. We have a wide range of newspapers, TV channels and blogs to choose from, and even the BBC, though paid for through tax, is at least independent in the sense that the government does not control its world view (not that it needs to). Yet a new report from Reporters Without Borders ranks the UK only 23rd in the world for press freedom (up one place from last year), behind a number of Eastern European countries and level with Namibia. The USA does even worse, finishing 36th (albeit up from 48th), one place behind France, which traditionally has had an image of a restricted press. India also did worse then I would have thought, finishing only 118th (up from 120th). Looking at the criteria for measurement, I suspect that our restrictive libel laws had something to do with our relatively lowly position:
To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders prepared a questionnaire with 49 criteria that assess the state of press freedom in each country. It includes every kind of violation directly affecting journalists (such as murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats) and news media (censorship, confiscation of newspaper issues, searches and harassment). Ãnd it includes the degree of impunity enjoyed by those responsible for these press freedom violations.
It also measures the level of self-censorship in each country and the ability of the media to investigate and criticise. Financial pressure, which is increasingly common, is also assessed and incorporated into the final score.
The questionnaire takes account of the legal framework for the media (including penalties for press offences, the existence of a state monopoly for certain kinds of media and how the media are regulated) and the level of independence of the public media. It also reflects violations of the free flow of information on the Internet.
Iceland, currently being bullied by Gordon Brown, was top. The list of the bottom twenty countries reads like the itinerary for George Gallowayâ€™s world tour.
(Via Patrick Vessey at the LPUK blog)
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Filed in: Civil liberties,Media