Asia no hotbed of press freedom


By Aileen McCabe, Asia Correspondent, Postmedia News October 20, 2010 9:04 AM

 SHANGHAI — Although it works harder at it and spends more money on it than anyone, China is not the world’s worst offender when it comes to media oppression.

That dubious honour goes to Eritrea, according to a report issued Wednesday by Reporters Without Borders. China was seven places better, at No. 171.

The report says Asia’s four Communist states, China, North Korea, Vietnam and Laos, are, however, all “among the 15 lowest ranked countries” on its Press Freedom Index.


Interestingly, Hong Kong, which has been a Special Administrative Region of China since the British handed over their former colony in 1997, has been able to hang onto much of its press freedom despite its new masters. It ranked No. 34 on the list.

Four more Asian nations — Burma, Thailand, the Philippines and Sri Lanka — rank in the bottom 30 of the worldwide list.

Canada came a fairly respectable No. 21, just behind the U.S. and Australia. Finland led the world.

RSF compiled the report based on evidence of “violations of press freedom,” which included censorship as well as violence against the media.

The report comes just a week after a group of 23 former Communist officials in China issued an open letter calling on Beijing to end media censorship.

The letter made the particularly embarrassing observation that even Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao was not spared the censor’s scissors. Interviews he gave and speeches he made in recent months where he mentioned stepping up the process of reform were not covered by the Mainland media.

The letter blamed the omissions on “invisible black hands” in the Propaganda Department and demanded: “What right does it have to rob the people of our nation of their right to know what the premier said?”

The report took note of China’s flourishing Internet, which Beijing often cites to “prove” that speech could hardly be called stifled in the country, but noted there is still “non-stop censorship and repression.”

Social networks like Facebook and Twitter are banned in China and literally thousands of websites the government disapproves of are blocked.

North Korea is also singled out for particular criticism for the severe restrictions it has placed on the media. It was almost amusing to note that earlier this month when ailing leader Kim Jong-il allowed some foreign media into the country to witness the elevation of his son to positions in the party and army that almost guarantee he is heir-apparent, they found ordinary people on the streets had never even heard of the young Kim Jong-un. People still don’t know exactly how old he is or why he was chosen ahead of his two older brothers.

Thailand (No. 153) dropped precipitously in the rankings this year because of violence against journalists. Protests in Bangkok this spring left two journalists dead and 15 injured, including two Canadians who were covering the “red-shirt” protests when the army violently intervened. There is still suspicion the journalists were not random victims, but targeted by the soldiers.

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Posted by on Oct 21 2010 Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

1 Comment for “Asia no hotbed of press freedom”

  1. Taawet

    Please visit the website of:
    Reporters Without Borders for Press Freedom
    Press Freedom Index 2010,1034.html

    The Ranking Table shows Eritrea to hold No. 178
    The last position in the world even worse than North Korea.
    Where are the Eritrean peoples’ opposition and resistance?

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