Monday, October 24, 2005

Don’t know whether I should be proud or embarrass...

Singapore has went up seven spots in the 2005 World Press Freedom Index. The new ranking is... number 140th out of 167 countries!

Sometimes I really don’t know whether I should be proud of the improvement or feel embarrass about the dismal state of our media industry…

October 24, 2005
Singapore 140th in press freedom index
Derrick A Paulo

Singapore has inched up seven spots in the 2005 World Press Freedom Index, released on Thursday by international association Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF).

The Republic is now ranked 140th out of 167 countries, one place behind the Philippines.

Last year, Dr Lee Boon Yang, Minister for Information, Communications and the Arts, slammed the rankings for favouring the press' role of criticism and opposition — a model Singapore does not follow.

RSF noted in this year's index report that Singapore "has a quite different style".

It attributes the country's low ranking to "the complete absence of independent newspapers, radio stations and TV stations, the application of prison sentences for press offences, media self-censorship and the opposition's lack of access to the state media".

The 20-year-old organisation was bleak in its assessment of press freedom in Asia, calling it the toughest continent for journalists.

Once again, North Korea was at the bottom of the rankings, with Nepal, China, Vietnam and Myanmar not much higher up the ladder.

But there are a couple of bright spots.

Indonesia is now ranked 102nd, a jump of 15 places, whilst Malaysia is 113th, up nine rungs.

The latter no longer has any journalists or cyber dissidents in prison and peace accords in Indonesia have opened up the former rebel province of Aceh to journalists, said RSF.

South Korea is the highest-ranked Asian country at the 34th spot.

The mostly Northern European countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Ireland, Netherlands, Norway and Switzerland were once again tied at the top of the rankings.

The United States proved it was no bastion of press freedom through legal moves that undermined the privacy of journalistic sources.

Contributing to this was the imprisonment of New York Times reporter Judith Miller. The move saw the US slip 20 places to number 44 on the list.

One observation made by RSF is that countries that have recently won their independence or have recovered it (within the past 15 years) are "very observant of press freedom and give the lie to the insistence of many authoritarian leaders that democracy takes decades to establish".

It cited nine countries — including ninth-ranked Slovenia and Timor Leste which stands at the 58th position — as part of this group.

As a note to its index, RSF stressed that the rankings "should in no way be taken as an indication of the quality of the press in the countries concerned".

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