(Nov. 2, 2010) The media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières, RSF) issued its ninth annual World Press Freedom Index on October 20, 2010. Northern Europe still dominated the highest ranking, with several countries sharing first place as those providing the greatest freedom of the press: Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. The RSF ranked the United States 20th in the Index. (Reporters Without Borders, Europe Falls from Its Pedestal, No Respite in the Dictatorships, 2010 WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX, Oct. 20, 2010, http://www.rsf.org/IMG/CLASSEMENT_2011/GB/C_GENERAL_GB.pdf.)
However, the RSF report accompanying the Index expressed concern about “the deteriorating press freedom situation in the European Union.” Although 13 of the EU 27 Member States rank among the top 20 places in the Index, some of the other 14 states, including Italy, Romania, Greece, and Bulgaria, “are very low in the ranking” (at 49th, 52nd, and 70th (shared) respectively). Thus, the report states, “[t]he European Union is not a homogenous whole as regards media freedom. On the contrary, the gap between good and bad performers continues to widen.” (Id.)
Eritrea was ranked last among the 178 of the Index, closely behind North Korea. This is the fourth year in a row that Eritrea has been deemed the worst violator of the rights of journalists. According to the report:
At least 30 journalists and four media contributors are held incommunicado in the most appalling conditions, without right to a trial and without any information emerging about their situation. Journalists employed by the state media – the only kind of media tolerated – have to choose between obeying the information ministry's orders or trying to flee the country. The foreign media are not welcome. (Id.)
Other countries at the very bottom of the list include Rwanda, Yemen, China, Sudan, Syria, Burma, Iran, and Turkmenistan (ranked 169-176, respectively).
The highest-ranked African countries are Namibia (21st); Cape Verde, Ghana, and Mali (all 26th), and South Africa (38th). South Africa fell five places, “in part because of attacks on journalists during the Football World Cup but above all because of the behaviour of senior members of the ruling African National Congress towards the press.” (Id.)