Press freedom in Asia declining, – Report

Lanka ranked 162 in the Press Freedom Index 2013

Press freedom across most parts of Asia has worsened, according to the latest Press Freedom Index released by Reporters Without Borders.

The media watchdog says Burma is a rare bright spot, and changes in Afghanistan are "precarious" as foreign troops withdraw.

Authoritarian countries like North Korea, China, Vietnam and Laos continue to appear at the bottom of the list, while Cambodia and Malaysia are regarded as drifting towards authoritarianism.

Sri Lanka is ranked 162 and has come up a notch from last year’s position (163).

Finland has come on the top of the list while Eritrea has hit the bottom place of the 179 country list.

In Asia, India (140th, -9) is at its lowest since 2002 because of increasing impunity for violence against journalists and because Internet censorship continues to grow. China (173rd, +1) shows no sign of improving.

The annual report noted a general decline in South Asia and Japanese restrictions on reporting the Fukushima nuclear disaster.

The head of Reporters Without Borders in Asia and the Pacific, Benjamin Ismail, told Radio Australia's Connect Asia there is limited media freedom in North Korea and China, despite leadership changes.

"Here we are still informed almost on a daily basis of violation of press freedom in these regions such as Tibet, but also for cases concerning the mainstream media located in Beijing or Shanghai," he said.

Burma has risen 18 places on the Press Freedom Index this year and ranks 151 out of 179 countries.

Mr Ismail says decriminalisation of the media needs to be the next step if the Burmese Government is serious about improving press freedom.

"The big challenge in 2013 for Burma will be legislative reform," he said.

"It appears many things have changed for journalists, the reality is not at all the same.

"They can really think of a brighter future, think to develop their media. But their legislative framework - which is a repressive one - is still in place, and that needs to be abolished."

The Press Freedom Index is determined by questionaries sent to non-governmental organisations, journalists, jurists and human rights workers.

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