As the world looks forward to the 20th World Press Freedom Day, which comes up on May 3, 2013, it still remains a known fact that the press is still gagged in many countries.
In its report published earlier in the year, the Reporters Without Borders which publishes an annual Press Freedom Index, Nigeria is ranked in the 115th position, based on a press freedom chart report that featured 179 countries. With a composite score of 34.11, Nigeria was ranked ahead of 64 other countries. Among African countries however, Nigeria occupies the 30th position.
On the chart, the higher the composite score of a country, the worse for its press freedom.
Some of the African countries rated above Nigeria include Namibia (19th on the global ranking with a score of 12.50), Cape Verde (25th with a score of 14.33), Ghana (30th with 17.27), Botswana (40th with 22.91) and Niger (43rd with 23.08).
Despite the passage of the Freedom of Information Law, Nigeria is still not among the best performers in terms of press freedom in Africa. Analysts have expressed concern that though Nigeria now has a Freedom of Information law, it does not mean the press is still not gagged in some areas.
One of such was the recent detention of some journalists after the publication of a report on the country’s presidency. The journalists, who are editors of Leadership newspapers, are currently facing charges in a law court over the matter.
Incidentally, it is not the first time Leadership will have issues with the Nigerian Presidency. On November 8, 2008, Leadership had a lead report which stated (without fact though) that the then president, Umar Yar’Adua had fallen ill again.
The paper reported then that the president was compelled to stay indoors for two days.
Though the president’s media aides debunked the allegation that the president was indoors and also made it known that he attended public functions during the time stated by the publication, the President went a step further by announcing his intention to seek redress in a court of law.
Leadership Newspapers also tendered an unreserved apology to the president thereby sparking off another debate on the infallibility of the press as well as the fact that journalists too are susceptible to errors.
In the Press Freedom report, the best performers were listed as Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg and Andorra.
“The Nordic countries have again demonstrated their ability to maintain an optimal environment for news providers. Finland(1st, 0), Netherlands(2nd, +1) and Norway(3rd, -2) have held on to the first three places. Canada (20th, -10) only just avoided dropping out of the top 20. Andorra (5th) and Liechtenstein(7th) have entered the index for the first time just behind the three leaders.
At the other end of the index, the same three countries as ever – Turkmenistan, North Koreaand Eritrea– occupy the last three places in the index. Kim Jong-un’s arrival at the head of the Hermit Kingdom has not in any way changed the regime’s absolute control of news and information. Eritrea(179th, 0), which was recently shaken by a brief mutiny by soldiers at the information ministry, continues to be a vast open prison for its people and lets journalists die in detention.
Despite its reformist discourse, the Turkmen regime has not yielded an inch of its totalitarian control of the media”, the report stated.
A part of the report also pointed out that “for the second year running, the bottom three countries are immediately preceded by Syria (176th, 0), where a deadly information war is being waged, and Somalia (175th, -11), which has had a deadly year for journalists. Iran (174th, +1), China(173rd, +1), Vietnam(172nd, 0), Cuba(171st, -4), Sudan(170th, 0) and Yemen(169th, +2) complete the list of the ten countries that respect media freedom least. Not content with imprisoning journalists and netizens, Iran also harasses the relatives of journalists, including the relatives of those who are abroad”.
On the press freedom index ranking, the 10 best performers are
1. Finland 6.38
2. Netherlands 6.48
3. Norway 6.52
4. Luxembourg 6.68
5. Andorra 6.82
6. Denmark 7.08
7. Liechtenstein 7.35
8. New Zealand 8.38
9. Iceland 8.49
10. Sweden 9.23
The 10 worst violators are
170. Sudan 70.06
171. Cuba 71.64
172. Vietnam 71.78
173. China 73.07
174. Iran 73.40
175. Somalia 73.59
176. Syria 78.53
177. Turkmenistan 79.14
178. North Korea 83.90
179. Eritrea 84.83
Source: The Street Journal
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