12 African Countries Ranked Highest For Press Freedom In 2016

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Written by Dana Sanchez

Transparent governments that respect human rights and the rule of law tend to foster environments that are good for business and investment, says Sarah Repucci, an expert on press freedom with the watchdog group Freedom House.

The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders has issued the 2016 edition of its annual World Press Freedom Index. Let’s just say that the news is not good. Even the Obama administration just wants reporters to shut up.

Respect for media freedom throughout the world is getting worse, not better.

The lower the score, the higher the press freedom in a country, according to the index. For example, Finland has the greatest press freedom and the lowest score at 8.59 out of 180 countries. Eritrea has the highest score and worst record for press freedom, with 83.92 points. The U.S., with a score of 22.46, ranks 41st out of 180 countries ranked.

Four African countries have greater press freedom than the U.S.

The 2016 World Press Freedom Index reflects the intensity of the attacks on journalistic freedom and independence by governments, ideologies and private-sector interests during the past year.

Seen as a benchmark, the index ranks countries according to the freedom allowed journalists including the level of media freedom violations in each region.

The index is based on an evaluation of media freedom that measures pluralism, media independence, the quality of the legal framework and the safety of journalists. It is compiled by means of a questionnaire in 20 languages answered by experts all over the world. This qualitative analysis is combined with quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated.

Media freedom violations seem to be taking a growing toll on African journalists. The biggest deterioration was seen in South Sudan (140th), which fell 15 places in the Index. In this country torn by civil war since 2013, journalists fell victim to the conflict’s violence and a campaign of intimidation by the authorities.

Countries with political crises fell in the rankings. In Republic of Congo (115th), Uganda (102nd) and Djibouti (172nd), a presidential desire to hold on to power led to pre-election violence against journalists and harsh, government-orchestrated censorship of the media. As a result of the president’s obstinacy in Burundi (156th), the leading independent media were destroyed, more than 100 journalists fled abroad and Burundi fell 11 places in the index.

A collapse in the rule of law and an increase in violence in certain regions account for the decline in countries such as Nigeria (116th), where journalists were threatened by both Boko Haram and the government. Jihadi groups had a direct impact on freedom of information in countries such as Mali (122nd), where in 2015 a terrorist group called the “Guardians of Hell” threatened to behead all foreign and Malian journalists working for foreign media.

Eritrea (180th) came last in the index again. Nothing has changed in this country, where freedom of information is literally abolished. The authorities half-opened their doors to foreign journalists, who were controlled very closely, but kept the doors of their prisons shut on local journalists.

Any score below 25 is considered satisfactory on the index.

We’ve highlighted the 12 countries in Africa ranked highest for press freedom in 2016.

Sources: Reason.com, FreedomHouse, ReportersWithoutBorders.

This article was first published April 22, 2016.