FOR the first time in almost 30 years, Papua New Guinea has been included in an international survey of global press freedom and it has emerged commendably.
Out of the 195 countries and territories covered in this year’s study, PNG has been ranked joint 17, ahead of many developing or developed countries.
Freedom House, which has been conducting the survey since 1980, considers the press in PNG to be free and awarded the country 26 points (from a possible 100 with zero being the best).
It described PNG’s rating as “very respectable for a developing country”.
Tuvalu was also in jointed 17th spot.
The study was less impressed with the situation in Fiji which fell 73 places to joint 29 spot after a military coup, the worst of any of the countries surveyed.
It noted that soldiers moved into Fijian news rooms for several weeks and censored articles before they were published. Journalists were also deported.
In actual terms, Fiji dropped to 152 spot among the 195 countries.
Also included in the study for the first time was the Sultanate of Brunei (62), which came in the bottom third because of the absence of an independent press.
European countries continued to fare well in the survey, with Iceland taking top spot, followed by Finland, Norway, Denmark, Sweden, Belgium and Luxemburg.
Among the Asia-Pacific region, New Zealand fared best at joint 6th, followed immediately by Palau.
Australia had been ranked 14, Vanuatu joint 15, and Kiribati 18.
Nauru, Samoa, the Solomon Islands and Tonga were between 19 and 23.
Timor Leste took 26 spot, well ahead of its former colonial master, Indonesia, whose press is considered “partly free”, and continues to hover around joint 41.
Firmly rooted at the bottom was one of the “infernal trio”, North Korea.
Just above it were Turkmenistan, Myanmar, Libya, Eritrea and Cuba.
The study noted that the level of violence and physical harassment directed at the press by both government and non-state actors continues to rise in many countries.
Many of these cases go unsolved and these attacks have a chilling effect on media, contributing to self-censorship.