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Freedom Press 2011

Freedom Press 2011

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Published by: Saladeprensa.org on May 02, 2011
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Freedom of the Press 2011
selected data from freedom house’sannual press freedom index
The proportion of the world’s population thathas access to a Free press declined to its lowestpoint in over a decade during 2010, as repressivegovernments intensified their efforts to controltraditional media and developed new techniquesto limit the independence of rapidly expandinginternet-based media. Among the countries toexperience significant declines in press freedomwere Egypt, Honduras, Hungary, Mexico, SouthKorea, Thailand, and Ukraine. And in theMiddle East, a number of governments withlong-standing records of hostility to the freeflow of information took further steps toconstrict press freedom by arresting journalistsand bloggers and censoring reports on sensitivepolitical issues. These developments constitutethe principal findings of 
Freedom of the Press2011: A Global Survey of  Media Independence
, thelatest edition of an annual index published byFreedom House since 1980.The report found that only 15 percent of theglobal population—one in six people—live incountries where coverage of political news isrobust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed,state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, andthe press is not subject to onerous legal oreconomic pressures. At the same time, the globalmedia environment, which has experienced apattern of deterioration for the past eight years,showed some signs of stabilizing. For example,the declines in the Middle East and in crucialcountries like Mexico and Thailand werepartially offset by gains in sub-Saharan Africaand portions of the former Soviet Union.Prospects for a reversal of the negativetrend were enhanced by the protest movementsthat emerged across the Middle East in the earlymonths of 2011. While this report assessesdevelopments in 2010—and thus does not takeinto account the potentially dramatic changes inTunisia, Egypt, and other Arab countries—itsfindings are a vivid reminder of the central rolethat the denial of press freedom and freedom of expression has played in the suppression of broader democratic rights in the Middle East andelsewhere. A principal complaint of the MiddleEast protesters has been the role of regime-controlled media in circulating governmentpropaganda and stifling opposition voices.While the fate of political reform in the regionremains unclear, the demands for change couldwell have ripple effects in other parts of theworld, including sub-Saharan Africa, the formerSoviet Union, and even China.During 2010, however, many of thesepositive pressures remained below the surface.Indeed, authoritarian efforts to place restrictionson the press, new media,and other instruments of expression gained mo-mentum in a number of strategically important countries, such as China,Iran, Russia, and Venezuela. These states werealso notable for their attempts to restrict mediafreedom and influence the news agenda beyondtheir borders. Meanwhile, media in new andaspiring democracies proved vulnerable to acombination of hostile forces, including politicalleaders determined to mute critics, powerfulbusiness interests, drug traffickers, and armedinsurgents or terrorists. Among the countries thatexperienced press freedom declines because of these forces were Bolivia, Ecuador, Honduras,Fiji, Iraq, Turkey, Ukraine, and Yemen.Backsliding was also seen in relatively openpress environments, with South Korea fallinginto the Partly Free range and Hungaryexperiencing significant setbacks.The year’s most impressive gains werebrought about through major legal andregulatory reforms and a greater officialwillingness to allow media freedom anddiversity in Guinea, Moldova, and Niger.Smaller improvements were noted in Colombia,
by Karin Deutsch Karlekar
 In 2010, only 1 in 6 people lived in countries with a Free press.
Georgia, and Kyrgyzstan, as well as a number of countries in sub-Saharan Africa, includingKenya, Senegal, and Zimbabwe.
Key Trends in 2010
Misuse of licensing and regulatoryframeworks has emerged as a key methodof control in a number of semidemocraticand authoritarian settings.
Authoritarianregimes have increasingly used boguslegalistic maneuvers to narrow the space forindependent broadcasting, effectivelycountering an earlier trend of growth in thenumber of private radio and televisionoutlets. In Russia, Venezuela, and a range of other countries, denial or suspension of broadcast licenses or closure of outlets onspurious grounds are preferred methods forsuppressing unwelcome views.
Control over new means of newsdissemination, particularly internet-basedsocial media, has become a priority forauthoritarian governments.
As mediadelivery systems have expanded fromtraditional print formats and terrestrialbroadcasting to satellite television, theinternet, and mobile telephones,authoritarian governments have intensifiedefforts to exert control over the new meansof communication as well as the newsoutlets that employ them. Blocking of satellite television transmissions was notedin Egypt and Iran, while the social-networking website Facebook was blockedbriefly in Pakistan and remained unavailablein China, Syria, and Vietnam. Somedemocratic and semidemocratic states alsomoved to implement additional controlsover the internet, including South Korea andThailand, which increased censorship of online content.
The role of nonstate forces in thesuppression of press freedom is growing.
In Mexico, violence associated with drugtrafficking has led to a dramatic increase inattacks on journalists and rising levels of self-censorship and impunity. In 2010, thecountry’s organized crime groups movedmore aggressively to control the newsagenda; no longer satisfied with silencingthe media, they have demanded specificcoverage that suits their interests. Somewhatless intense pressure by drug traffickinggroups drove continued declines in Guinea-Bissau, another burgeoning narcostate.
Worsening violence against the press andimpunity for such crimes are forcing journalists into self-censorship or exile.
The level of violence and physicalharassment directed at the press by bothofficial and nonstate actors remains a keyconcern in a number of countries. In mediaenvironments ranging from conflict zones tostruggling democracies with a weak rule of law, the press is facing increasedintimidation or outright attacks. Accordingto the Committee to Protect Journalists,some of the deadliest countries for journalists in 2010 were Honduras,Indonesia, Iraq, Mexico, and Pakistan.These attacks have a chilling effect on theprofession, encouraging self-censorship orexile, and the failure to punish or evenseriously investigate crimes against journalists has reached scandalousproportions.
Threats to media freedom remain aconcern in established democracies.
 Various pressures impinge on press freedomin democratic countries as diverse as India,Israel, Italy, and South Africa. Increasedcensorship and attempts to exert officialinfluence over the management of broadcastoutlets led to a decline in South Korea’sstatus, from Free to Partly Free. In Hungary,the conservative government of PrimeMinister Viktor Orbán pushed restrictivelegislation through the parliament and seizedcontrol over media regulators and publicbroadcasters.

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