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Press Freedom Gets Better, But It’s Still Dangerous to Be a Reporter in Brazil

October 28th, 2009
Reporters Without Borders

Reporters Without Borders

The world ranking for freedom of press in 175 countries as reported by French NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF), earlier this month, has some surprises. Brazil went up 11 slots and several Europeans countries like France and Italy are not as exemplary as they used to be.

“It is disturbing to see European democracies such as France, Italy and Slovakia fall steadily in the rankings year after year,” regrets Jean-François Julliard, general secretary of the RSF.

“Europe should be setting an example as regards civil liberties. How can you condemn human rights violations abroad if you do not behave irreproachably at home? The Obama effect, which has enabled the United States to recover 16 places in the index, is not enough to reassure us.”

The list continues to be led by European countries, however. Denmark, Finland and Ireland are the nations that most respect freedom of press in the world. At the bottom of the list and by the third consecutive year are Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea

After going up 11 rungs Brazil is now 71 on the list. Although not good enough the Brazilian situation improved, according to the NGO, thanks to the end of the Press Law, a legacy from the military dictatorship period (1964-1985).

The Lula administration is also credited with its efforts to make access to information more democratic. Despite this positive evolution, Reporters Without Borders points out that violence against the media is still very common especially in the northern and northeastern regions of Brazil.

The censura prévia (preventive censorship) is still very common. Judges frequently bar publication of articles at the request of politicians and other influential people.

Brazilian journalists are exposed to serious risks in some regions, particularly when they report on sensitive issues such as trafficking, corruption or environmental questions. Attacks that can go as far as murder still plague the northern and northeastern states, or further south, at the Paraguayan border, the hub of the drug trade.

Insecurity also affects the press in the metropolitan regions like Rio de Janeiro, where three staff on the daily O Dia were abducted and tortured in a slum in 2008 by an armed group having links within the police. Often concentrated within states, the press, particularly local, also has to face legal harassment from some authorities.

Collusion between a mayor or governor and the judges have led to “preventive censorship” against media reporting embarrassing news, in violation of basic constitutional freedoms. The unfair distribution of official advertising is another means of taking reprisals against media seen as troublesome.

Debate has begun on the question of whether Brazil should have a new press law. On April 30, Brazil’s Supreme Federal Tribunal (STF), the country’s highest court, finally repealed the entire 1967 press law, the principles of which were contrary to the 1988 democratic constitution.

Adopted under the military dictatorship, it provided for prison sentences for the offences of “insult”, “defamation” and “denigration”. Finally, the need to establish and regulate mushrooming but currently illegal community radios is becoming more and more urgent.

Reporters Without Borders compiles the index every year on the basis of questionnaires that are completed by hundreds of journalists and media experts around the world. This year’s index reflects press freedom violations that took place between 1 September 2008 and 31 August 2009.

Europe long set an example in press freedom but several European nations have fallen significantly in this year’s index. Even if the first 13 places are still held by European countries, others such as France (43rd), Slovakia (44th) and Italy (49th) continue their descent, falling eight, 37 and five places respectively. In so doing, they have given way to young democracies in Africa (Mali, South Africa and Ghana) and the western hemisphere (Uruguay and Trinidad and Tobago).

Journalists are still physically threatened in Italy and Spain (44th), but also in the Balkans, especially Croatia (78th), where the owner and marketing director of the weekly Nacional were killed by a bomb on 23 October 2008.

But the main threat, a more serious one in the long term, comes from new legislation. Many laws adopted since September 2008 have compromised the work of journalists. One adopted by Slovakia (44th) has introduced the dangerous concept of an automatic right of response and has given the culture minister considerable influence over publications.

The United States has climbed 16 places in the rankings, from 36th to 20th, in just one year. Barack Obama’s election as president and the fact that he has a less hawkish approach than his predecessor have had a lot to do with this.

But this sharp rise concerns only the state of press freedom within the United States. President Obama may have been awarded the Nobel peace prize, but his country is still fighting two wars. Despite a slight improvement, the attitude of the United States towards the media in Iraq and Afghanistan is worrying. Several journalists were injured or arrested by the US military. One, Ibrahim Jassam, is still being held in Iraq.

The Full List

Rank Country Mark

1 Denmark 0,00

– Finland 0,00

– Ireland 0,00

– Norway 0,00

– Sweden 0,00

6 Estonia 0,50

7 Netherlands 1,00

– Switzerland 1,00

9 Iceland 2,00

10 Lithuania 2,25

11 Belgium 2,50

– Malta 2,50

13 Austria 3,00

– Latvia 3,00

– New Zealand 3,00

16 Australia 3,13

17 Japan 3,25

18 Germany 3,50

19 Canada 3,70

20 Luxembourg 4,00

– United Kingdom 4,00

– United States of America 4,00

23 Jamaica 4,75

24 Czech Republic 5,00

25 Cyprus 5,50

– Hungary 5,50

27 Ghana 6,00

28 Trinidad and Tobago 7,00

29 Uruguay 7,63

30 Costa Rica 8,00

– Mali 8,00

– Portugal 8,00

33 South Africa 8,50

34 Macedonia 8,75

35 Greece 9,00

– Namibia 9,00

37 Poland 9,50

– Slovenia 9,50

39 Bosnia and Herzegovina 10,50

– Chile 10,50

– Guyana 10,50

42 Surinam 10,60

43 France 10,67

44 Cape Verde 11,00

– Slovakia 11,00

– Spain 11,00

47 Argentina 11,33

48 Hong-Kong 11,75

49 Italy 12,14

50 Romania 12,50

51 Cyprus (North) 14,00

– Maldives 14,00

– Mauritius 14,00

54 Paraguay 14,33

55 Panama 14,50

56 Papua New Guinea 14,70

57 Burkina Faso 15,00

– Haiti 15,00

59 Taiwan 15,08

60 Kuwait 15,25

61 Lebanon 15,42

62 Botswana 15,50

– Liberia 15,50

– Malawi 15,50

– Serbia 15,50

– Tanzania 15,50

– Togo 15,50

68 Bulgaria 15,61

69 South Korea 15,67

70 Bhutan 15,75

71 Brazil 15,88

72 Benin 16,00

– Seychelles 16,00

– Timor-Leste 16,00

75 Kosovo 16,58

76 Nicaragua 16,75

77 Montenegro 17,00

78 Croatia 17,17

79 El Salvador 17,25

80 Central African Republic 17,75

81 Georgia 18,83

82 Comoros 19,00

– Mozambique 19,00

84 Ecuador 20,00

85 Peru 20,88

86 Uganda 21,50

– United Arab Emirates 21,50

88 Albania 21,75

89 Senegal 22,00

– Ukraine 22,00

91 Mongolia 23,33

92 Guinea-Bissau 23,50

93 Israel (Israeli territory) 23,75

94 Qatar 24,00

95 Bolivia 24,17

96 Kenya 25,00

97 Zambia 26,75

98 Dominican Republic 26,83

99 Lesotho 27,50

100 Guinea 28,50

– Indonesia 28,50

– Mauritania 28,50

103 Burundi 29,00

– Côte d’Ivoire 29,00

105 India 29,33

106 Guatemala 29,50

– Oman 29,50

108 United States of America (extra-territorial) 30,00

109 Cameroon 30,50

110 Djibouti 31,00

111 Armenia 31,13

112 Jordan 31,88

113 Tajikistan 32,00

114 Moldova 33,75

115 Sierra Leone 34,00

116 Congo 34,25

117 Cambodia 35,17

118 Nepal 35,63

119 Angola 36,50

– Bahrain 36,50

121 Bangladesh 37,33

122 Philippines 38,25

– Turkey 38,25

124 Venezuela 39,50

125 Kurdistan 40,00

126 Colombia 40,13

127 Morocco 41,00

128 Honduras 42,00

129 Gabon 43,50

130 Thailand 44,00

131 Malaysia 44,25

132 Chad 44,50

133 Singapore 45,00

134 Madagascar 45,83

135 Nigeria 46,00

136 Zimbabwe 46,50

137 Gambia 48,25

– Mexico 48,25

139 Niger 48,50

140 Ethiopia 49,00

141 Algeria 49,56

142 Kazakhstan 49,67

143 Egypt 51,38

144 Swaziland 52,50

145 Iraq 53,30

146 Azerbaijan 53,50

– Democratic Republic of Congo 53,50

148 Sudan 54,00

149 Afghanistan 54,25

150 Israel (extra-territorial) 55,50

151 Belarus 59,50

152 Fiji 60,00

153 Russia 60,88

154 Tunisia 61,50

155 Brunei 63,50

156 Libya 64,50

157 Rwanda 64,67

158 Equatorial Guinea 65,50

159 Pakistan 65,67

160 Uzbekistan 67,67

161 Palestinian Territories 69,83

162 Sri Lanka 75,00

163 Saudi Arabia 76,50

164 Somalia 77,50

165 Syria 78,00

166 Vietnam 81,67

167 Yemen 83,38

168 China 84,50

169 Laos 92,00

170 Cuba 94,00

171 Burma 102,67

172 Iran 104,14

173 Turkmenistan 107,00

174 North Korea 112,50

175 Eritrea 115,50 /content/v

http://www.brazzilmag.com


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