The National, Friday 27th January 2012
PAPUA New Guinea is the best-ranked Pacific nation on press freedom, according to a report released yesterday.
Media body Reporters Without Borders (Reporters sans frontiers) listed PNG at number 35 in its press freedom index – three places above France which has territories in the region.
Samoa (54th) ranked equal with Hong Kong, just ahead of the United States territories.
Tonga was 63rd and Timor-Leste 86th.
But Vanuatu, which has had some problems in the past year and the Solomon Islands, were not listed.
Fiji, which has a draconian media decree imposed by the military-backed regime which seized power in a 2006 coup, dropped to 117th.
The survey was completed before it lifted its Public Emergency Regulations (PER) this month but immediately imposed a Public Order Act which contained even worse conditions than the PER.
Countries which have traditionally been good performers in the Asia-Pacific region did not shine last year, the report said.
“With New Zealand’s fall to 13th position, no country in the region figured among the top 10 in the index, it said.
“Hong Kong (54th) saw a sharp deterioration in press freedom in 2011 and its ranking fell sharply. Arrests, assaults and harassment worsened working conditions for journalists to an extent not seen previously, a sign of a worrying change in government policy.
“In Australia (30th), the media were subjected to investigations and criticism by the authorities, and were denied access to information. In Japan (22nd) coverage of the tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear accident gave rise to excessive restrictions and exposed the limits of the pluralism of the country’s press.”
Indonesia fell to 146th after a military crackdown in the West Papua region, where at least two journalists were killed, five kidnapped and 18 assaulted last year.
“In Afghanistan (150th) and Pakistan (151st), violence remained the main concern for journalists, who were under constant threat from the Taliban, religious extremists, separatist movements and political groups.
“With 10 deaths in 2011, Pakistan (151st) was the world’s deadliest country for journalists for the second year in a row.”
The top 10 countries are headed by Finland, followed by Norway, Estonia, the Netherlands, Austria, Iceland, Luxembourg, Switzerland, Cape Verde and Canada.