Malaysia leaps in press freedom ranking

  • Nation
  • Thursday, 23 Apr 2020

PETALING JAYA: Malaysia is now ranked 101st globally in the latest 2020 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

According to RSF, Malaysia registered the biggest increase among 180 countries as it saw an improvement by 22 places, followed by 79th-ranked Maldives, which improved by 19 places.

It credited the change of government through the polls in both countries as a factor.

The third biggest increase was Sudan, which jumped 16 spots to 159th placing, which RSF credited to the removal of Omar al-Bashir as president in a coup d’etat.

At the top of the rankings were Norway, Finland, Sweden, Netherlands and Denmark, while North Korea, Eritrea and Turkmenistan are at the bottom of the pile.

The biggest decline in the ranking was 83rd placed Haiti, which fell 21 places, with RSF citing violent nationwide protests in the past two years, where journalists were targeted, as a factor.

The other two biggest falls were in Africa – by Comoros (down 19 to 75th) and Benin (down 17 to 113th), both of which have seen a surge in press freedom violations.

RSF said the latest index suggestsed that the next 10 years would be pivotal for journalism, citing various crises ranging from geopolitical, technological and political to declining trust and economic as contributing factors.

“We are entering a decisive decade for journalism linked to crises that affect its future,” said RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

“The Covid-19 pandemic illustrates the negative factors threatening the right to reliable information and is itself an exacerbating factor,” he added.

Deloire also said that there was a clear correlation between suppression of media freedom in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as he pointed out that China (ranked 177th) and Iran (173rd) had extensive censorship over the pandemic coverage.

As RSF pointed out harsh fake news legislations against Covid-19 reporting in Iraq and Hungary respectively, Deloire said the ongoing public health crisis allowed authoritarian governments to implement “shock doctrines”.

“To take advantage of the fact that politics is on hold, the public is stunned, and protests are out of the question, in order to impose measures that would be impossible in normal times,” he added.

“For this decisive decade to not be a disastrous one, people of goodwill, whoever they are, must campaign for journalists to be able to fulfil their role as society’s trusted third parties, which means they must have the capacity to do so.”

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