12 African Countries Ranked Highest For Press Freedom In 2016

By Dana Sanchez AFKI Original Published: October 3, 2016, 8:52 pm
Response as Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore resigns. Photo: BBC

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.

The media in Senegal frequently criticize the government. Photo: AFP/bbc.com

The media in Senegal frequently criticize the government. Photo: AFP/bbc.com

12. Senegal

Global ranking: 65
Global score: 27.99

Senegalese media are diverse and media freedom violations directly affecting journalists have been relatively few in recent years. But several media executives and journalists were questioned and threatened in 2015 for reporting allegations that Lamine Diack, Senegal’s former president of the International Association of Athletics Federations, had used bribe money to fund political election campaigns in Senegal. A bill decriminalizing media offences has been on hold for five years.

Source: Reporters Without Borders

News media outside the Supreme Court in Port Louis. Photo: Jamirouddin Yeadally/PA Wire/itv.com

News media outside the Supreme Court in Port Louis. Photo: Jamirouddin Yeadally/PA Wire/itv.com

11. Mauritius

Global ranking: 61
Global score: 27.69

Respect for freedom of information has deteriorated in Mauritius, considered a model in Africa for democracy and human rights. Abuses have been reported against journalists including threats by authorities against the daily newspaper L’Express. The editor of the weekly Samedi Plus got a jail sentence in 2011, and the Mauritius Broadcasting Corporation warned journalists who spoke during public debates.

Source: Reporters Without Borders

Reading a newspaper in Madagascar. Photo: un.org

Reading a newspaper in Madagascar. Photo: un.org

10. Madagascar

Global ranking: 56
Global score: 27.04

Madagascar is generally calm but democratic debate is still limited in the country which has been led since 2014 by Hery Rajaonarimampianina. Before the 2013 elections, many media outlets were censored and closed to ensure “respect for the rule of law” and to “overhaul the media landscape,” the government said. The links between privately-owned media companies and politicians were very visible during the 2013 election campaign, when the newspapers clearly backed one or other candidate.

Source: Reporters Without Borders

Protesting against Boko Haram in Niamey, Niger. Photo: bbc.com

Protesting against Boko Haram in Niamey, Niger. Photo: bbc.com

9. Niger

Global ranking: 52
Global score: 24.62

Freedom of information declined sharply in 2015 amid President Mahamadou Issoufou’s efforts to pave the way for reelection and growing international efforts to combat terrorism. Several news media were the targets of police violence for covering post-Charlie Hebdo demonstrations in January 2015. The run-up to the February 2016 presidential election was marked by arrests of journalists and obstruction of media activity. Access to social networks such as Facebook and WhatsApp and the sending of SMS messages were blocked for three days.

Source: Reporters Without Borders

Cormoros protest. Photo: africanews.com

Cormoros protest. Photo: africanews.com

8. Comoros

Global ranking: 50
Global score: 24.33

The climate of self-censorship in Comoros is due to the archipelago’s small size and population (less than 1 million). New media outlets have nonetheless appeared in recent years thanks to donations and local initiatives. Journalists are spared physical violence but they suffer from a lack of resources and access to information. Online information has recently developed despite very limited Internet access that is due to a lack of infrastructure, frequent power cuts and high connection costs.

Source: Reporters Without Borders

Mauritania has one of the most open media environments in the Maghreb, BBC reports. Photo: Getty/bbc

Mauritania has one of the most open media environments in the Maghreb, BBC reports. Photo: Getty/bbc

7. Mauritania

Global ranking: 48
Global score: 24.03

In recent years media freedom has progressed in Mauritania and there has been a significant fall in violence and intimidation against journalists. But the approval of a cyber-crimes law and blogger Mohamed Cheikh Ould Mohamed’s death sentence on a charge of apostasy in 2014 have been a source of concern. Fear of reprisals makes most journalists censor themselves when they cover such subjects as corruption, the military, Islam or slavery, which still exists in Mauritania.

Source: Reporters Without Borders

Photo: mg.co.za

Photo: mg.co.za

6. Botswana

Global ranking: 43
Global score: 22.91

Although Botswana has a relative good position in the annual press freedom index, the government maintains control not only over the state-owned media but also over the privately-owned newspapers that depend on state advertising. Officialdom’s harassment of the Sunday Standard’s journalists in 2014 and the many defamation suits brought against journalists show that it is still difficult to cover certain events in Botswana. This was particularly so during the 2014 parliamentary elections.

Source: Reporters Without Borders

Response as Burkina Faso's President Blaise Compaore resigns. Photo: BBC

Response as Burkina Faso’s President Blaise Compaore resigns. Photo: BBC

5. Burkina Faso

Global ranking: 42
Global score: 22.66

Burkina Faso is an Africa success story for press freedom. It has risen steadily in RSF’s press freedom index in the past few years and the recent military coup was accomplished without any major violations of freedom of information. Insulting the president may even be decriminalized soon. Both the print and broadcast media are also more pluralistic and dynamic than in most African countries.

Source: Reporters Without Borders

Commuters stop to buy newspapers at Cape Town train station. Photo: news.yahoo.com

Commuters stop to buy newspapers at Cape Town train station. Photo: AFP/Jennifer Bruce

 

4. South Africa

Global ranking: 39
Global score: 21.92

South Africa’s constitution protects its very diverse media but laws dating back to apartheid and the 2004 anti-terrorism laws limit coverage of institutions where “national interest” is supposedly at stake. Erosion of a degree of media freedom has been seen in the ban on talking about the president’s lavish expenses and in the hostile reactions from the authorities to articles about the ruling ANC. There has been an increase in police violence to make reporters delete photos of brutal arrests.

Source: Reporters Without Borders

BBC

BBC

3. Cape Verde

Global ranking: 32
Global score: 19.82

Cabo Verde has exceptional media freedom guaranteed by the constitution and no attacks on journalistse. The most recent defamation suit was in 2002. The state owns many of the country’s media including the main TV channel, TCV, and Radio Nacional de Cabo, but does not control their content. Self-censorship is nonetheless noticeable due to small size of the country and media landscape, which makes journalists reluctant to upset possible future employers.

Source: Reporters Without Borders

wikipedia

wikipedia

2.  Ghana

Global ranking: 26
Global score: 17.95

Press freedom got worse in Ghana since 2014 although this country is considered a democratic model in Africa under John Dramani Mahama. In 2014, the Media Foundation For West Africa registered nine physical attacks on journalists, as well as several arrests and raids on newspapers. These attacks take advantage of a climate of impunity and flawed media legislation. Articles in the criminal code penalizing “false news” are sometimes abused to harass journalists.

Source: Reporters Without Borders

A voter lines up at a Namibia polling station, Nov. 28, 2014. Photo: AP/Dirk Heinrich

A voter lines up at a Namibia polling station, Nov. 28, 2014. Photo: AP/Dirk Heinrich

1. Namibia

Global ranking: 17
Global score: 15.15

Self-censorship is common in the state-owned Namibian media, but critical journalists find a refuge on the Internet, where they are not subject to control. Public order and security legislation is often used to restrict freedom of information. Journalists are often the targets of attacks by political parties. This was the case during the 2014 elections, when NBC journalists were attacked by both ruling party officials and members of the opposition.

Source: Reporters Without Borders

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