Thursday 26 January 2012

UK's rating falls in RWB press freedom index

The United Kingdom has dropped to 28th in the Reporters Without Borders annual International Press Freedom Index.

The press freedom campaign group raises concerns about the way the Government responded to last year's riots by threatening social media and urging tv companies to hand over unbroadcast film.

It is also concerned over moves to protect privacy in the UK and the country's continued role as a centre for libel tourism.

In 2010/2011, the UK was ranked 19th in the RWB Press Freedom Index.

RWB says: "Against the extraordinary backdrop of the News of the World affair, the United Kingdom caused concern with its approach to the protection of privacy and its response to the London riots.

"Despite universal condemnation, the UK also clings to a surreal law that allows the entire world to come and sue news media before its courts."

In the wake of the riots in the UK, Reporters Without Borders voiced concerns about police being provided with personal data of BlackBerry Messenger service users and possible restrictions on social media. It urged the British authorities to rule out any possibility of shutting down or drastically restricting the use of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.

RWB also come out against David Cameron's request that tv companies should give police unbroadcast riot film, claiming: "this would turn them into police auxiliaries and seriously endanger their independence".

RWB says in a review of the index: “Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011. Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous. The equation is simple: the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them.

“It is no surprise that the same trio of countries, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea, absolute dictatorships that permit no civil liberties, again occupy the last three places in the index. This year, they are immediately preceded at the bottom by Syria, Iran and China, three countries that seem to have lost contact with reality as they have been sucked into an insane spiral of terror, and by Bahrain and Vietnam, quintessential oppressive regimes. Other countries such as Uganda and Belarus have also become much more repressive.

“This year’s index finds the same group of countries at its head, countries such as Finland, Norway and Netherlands that respect basic freedoms. This serves as a reminder that media independence can only be maintained in strong democracies and that democracy needs media freedom."

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