Cyprus ahead of US in press freedom

From Reporters Without Borders & Cyprus-Mail Exact methodology would be interesting to see. North Korea locks up last place - no surprise there!

Full text below. Will convert to link once there is a specific link to it...

Cyprus slips on press freedom index, but remains well ahead of the US By Jean Christou CYPRUS is among a number of western countries that have slipped in the press freedoms rankings compiled annually by the international organisation Reporters Without Borders (RWB), but the island remains significantly higher than it was three years ago.On the 2006 list, Cyprus is ranked 30th out of 168 countries with North Korea in last place. In 2003, Cyprus was in 83rd place and in 2005 it was ranked 25th. But the island still ranks comparatively high and is ahead of France, the United States, Greece, Australia, Italy and Israel.

However, Cyprus still comes in behind the majority of eastern European countries, as well as Bolivia, Costa Rica and Trinidad and Tobago. The UK ranks 27th.

Sharing first place were Finland, Ireland, Iceland and the Netherlands, the four countries deemed to have the most press freedom.

RWB said a number of new countries such as Mauritania and Haiti had gained much ground, while western democracies were slipping.

"Each year new countries in less developed parts of the world move up the Index to positions above some European countries or the United States. This is good news and shows once again that, even though very poor, countries can be very observant of freedom of expression,” said RWB. “Meanwhile, the steady erosion of press freedom in the United States, France and Japan is extremely alarming.”

According to the report, the US has fallen nine places to 53rd position since last year, after being in 17th position in the first year of the Index in 2002.

It said relations between the media and the Bush administration sharply deteriorated after the president used the pretext of “national security” to regard as suspicious any journalist who questioned his “war on terrorism”.

“The zeal of federal courts, which, unlike those in 33 US states, refuse to recognise the media’s right not to reveal its sources, even threatens journalists whose investigations have no connection at all with terrorism,” the report said.

It cited the case of freelance journalist and blogger Josh Wolf, who was imprisoned when he refused to hand over his video archives, and that of Sudanese cameraman Sami al-Haj, who works for Al-Jazeera, who has been held without trial since June 2002 at the US military base at Guantanamo. It also mentioned Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein who has been held by US authorities in Iraq since April this year.

France, now in 35th place, has slipped 24 places over five years due to the increase in searches of media offices and journalists’ homes, which RWB said was very worrying for media organisations and trade unions.

“Autumn 2005 was an especially bad time for French journalists, several of whom were physically attacked or threatened during a trade union dispute involving privatisation of the Corsican firm SNCM and during violent demonstrations in French city suburbs in November.

Israel too has dropped from 47th last year to 50th this year. “The Israeli army’s repeated abuses against journalists in the occupied territories and the US army’s responsibility in the death of several reporters during the war in Iraq constitute unacceptable behaviour by two nations that never stop stressing their commitment to freedom of expression,” RWB said.

Posted on November 1, 2006 and filed under Cyprus.