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PESHAWAR: Press freedom situation went from bad to worse in Pakistan as the country was ranked 151 in a global media organisation’s World Press Freedom Index for 2011-12 – a point below Afghanistan (150th) – as violence remained the main concern for journalists, under constant threat from Taliban, religious extremists, separatist movements and political groups.

With 10 deaths in 2011, Pakistan was the world’s deadliest country for journalists for the second year in a row, Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF), said on Wednesday in a press statement after releasing the index.

“This year’s index sees many changes in the rankings, changes that reflect a year that was incredibly rich in developments, especially in the Arab world,” RSF said as it released the 10th annual Press Freedom Index.

“Many media paid dearly for their coverage of democratic aspirations or opposition movements. Control of news and information continued to tempt governments and to be a question of survival for totalitarian and repressive regimes.” It added, “Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011. Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy. Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous.” “The equation is simple: the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them.”

It said it is no surprise that the same trio of countries, Eritrea, Turkmenistan and North Korea, “absolute dictatorships” that permit no civil liberties, again occupy the last three places in the index. “This year, they are immediately preceded at the bottom by Syria, Iran and China, three countries that seem to have lost contact with reality as they have been sucked into an insane spiral of terror, and by Bahrain and Vietnam, quintessential oppressive regimes. Other countries such as Uganda and Belarus have also become much more repressive.”

Situation for Asia-Pacific was not good, according to the RSF Press Freedom Index.

“Those who are traditionally good performers did not shine in 2011. With New Zealand’s fall to 13th position, no country in the Asia-Pacific region figured among the top 10 in the index,” it alarmed.

“This year’s index finds the same group of countries at its head, countries such as Finland, Norway and Netherlands that respect basic freedoms. This serves as a reminder that media independence can only be maintained in strong democracies and that democracy needs media freedom.”

World’s biggest democracy also witnessed attacks on media. “In India (131st), journalists were exposed to violence stemming from the persistent conflicts in the states of Chhattisgarh and Jammu and Kashmir. The threat from mafia groups operating in the main cities of the country also contributed to self-censorship,” the index said.

However, the Indian authorities were “no better”. In May, they unveiled the ‘Information Technology Rules 2011’, which have dangerous implications for online freedom of expression.

Originally published here.

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