Global Press Freedom at Lowest Level in More Than DecadePublished on Monday 2nd May 2011
A U.S.-based group that monitors human rights says the number of people with access to free and independent media has declined to its lowest level in more than a decade. In its newly released annual survey of 193 countries and territories, Freedom House says it rated 68 as "free," 65 "partly free" and 63 as "not free.”The group says during the past five years, the decline in freedom has affected every region, and only one-in-six people live in countries with a press designated as free. Freedom House says Egypt, Honduras, Hungary, Mexico, South Korea, Thailand, and Ukraine were among those countries that saw significant declines. The group says violence in Mexico brought on by problems with drug trafficking and an ongoing drug war led a dramatic increase in attacks on journalists there. It also led to rising levels of self-censorship and impunity, as well as overt attempts by nonstate actors to control and guide the news agenda.South Korea was moved from free to partly free, and Thailand slipped from partly free to not free following an increase in efforts in both countries to censor online content.Freedom House says a severe crackdown prior to Egypt’s parliamentary elections last November saw the country’s rating slip to not free. Smaller setbacks were also seen in Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Morocco and Yemen. But the report says recent events in the Middle East and North Africa could help reverse the global trend and bring more positive upward movement in 2011. Freedom House says repressive governments have stepped up efforts to control new means of communication, such as satellite television, the Internet and mobile telephones. The report says satellite television was blocked in Egypt and Iran, the social networking website was briefly blocked in Pakistan and remained unavailable in China, Syria and Vietnam in 2010.The survey says significant improvements in sub-Saharan Africa and parts of the former Soviet Union helped balance the declines. Freedom House says Guinea, Niger and Moldova saw what it calls "impressive openings" in press freedom, while smaller positive steps were made in Colombia, Kenya, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Senegal and Zimbabwe.