According to Reporters Without Borders, South Africa’s ranking has been steadily slipping as investigative journalism is threatened by the Protection of State Information Bill.
In November 2012, the ANC pushed the final admendments to the Protection of State Information Bill through the National Council of Provinces despite protests, bringing the secrecy Bill two steps away from becoming law.
“This year’s index is a better reflection of the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom in the medium or long term,” said the organisation.
Other countries also slipped in the rankings were Israel, now at 112th (-20) because of its military targeting of reporters in Palestine's territories, and Malayasia dropped 23 places due to the limitation on the access of information in the country.
While Somalia dropped to 175th, 2013 proved to be a deadly year for journalists in the country, and Mali slumped 74 places – the biggest fall in the index – as a result of turmoil in the country after a military coup there that lead to journalists being physically attacked and state-owned media being taken over by the army.
Countries that respect the media
“For the third year running, Finland has distinguished itself as the country that most respected media freedom. It was followed by the Netherlands and Norway,” said Reporters Without Borders.
While Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea remain at the bottom of the index.
“The press freedom index published by Reporters Without Borders does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted,” Reporters Without Borders secretary general Christophe Deloire said.
Malawi, up by 71 places, “registered the biggest leap in the index, almost returning to the position it held before the excesses at the end of the [Bingu wa] Mutharika administration,” reported the organisation.
Afghanistan, now at 128,(+22), Burma, up by 18 spots, and Côte d’Ivoire (96th) – which has soared after a post-electoral crisis between Alassane Ouattara and Laurent Gbagbo – have proved to move closer towards “media freedom”.
Coinciding with the release of the index, Reporters Without Borders is to start publishing an annual global “indicator” of worldwide media freedom, which measures the level of freedom of information around the globe.
“In view of the emergence of new technologies and the interdependence of governments and peoples, the freedom to produce and circulate news and information needs to be evaluated at the planetary as well as national level. Today, in 2013, the media freedom 'indicator' stands at 3 395, a point of reference for the years to come,” said Reporters Without Borders.
For the full Reporters Without Borders 2013 World Press Freedom Index, click here.