Watchdog: Belarus one of worst-rated in 2013 press freedom ranking


Only 1 in 7 people live in a country with a ‘free’ press, Freedom House says in its annual report. Belarus has taken 193rd place being at the bottom of the list together with Eritrea, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Global press freedom has fallen to its lowest level in over a decade, according to the latest edition of Freedom House’s press freedom survey. The decline was driven in part by major regression in several Middle Eastern states, including Egypt, Libya, and Jordan; marked setbacks in Turkey, Ukraine, and a number of countries in East Africa; and deterioration in the relatively open media environment of the United States.

The share of the world’s population with media rated “Free” remains at just 14 percent, or only one in seven people. Far larger shares live in “Not Free” (44 percent) or “Partly Free” (42 percent) media environments.

Key Global Findings:

§ Of the 197 countries and territories assessed during 2013, a total of 63 (32 percent) were rated Free, 68 (35 percent) were rated Partly Free, and 66 (33 percent) were rated Not Free.

§ All regions except sub-Saharan Africa, whose average score leveled off, showed declines, with the Middle East and North Africa suffering the worst deterioration.

§ Triggers for country declines included governments’ overt attempts to control the news—whether through the physical harassment of journalists covering protest movements or other sensitive stories, restrictions on foreign reporters, or tightened constraints on online news outlets and social media—as well as the role of owners in shaping media content through directives on coverage or dismissals of outspoken journalists.

§ Country improvements were largely driven by three factors: a growing ability of private firms to operate television and radio outlets; greater access to a variety of views via online media, social media, and international outlets; and improved respect for legal protections for the press.

§ China and Russia maintained a tight grip on local media while also attempting to control the more independent views provided either in the blogosphere or by foreign news sources.

§ The world’s eight worst-rated countries remain Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

‘Belarus’s media environment remained extremely restrictive in 2013. Even in the absence of major political events during the year, the government of President Aliaksandr Lukashenka continued to aggressively suppress independent voices. The authorities sustained their crackdown on opposition activists, protesters, and journalists while attempting to stave off economic deterioration, the influence of Ukraine’s Euromaidan protests, pressure to move toward European integration, political meddling by the Kremlin, and the growing influence of social media among younger Belarusians,’ the report says.

‘The government maintains a virtual monopoly on domestic broadcast media, which consistently glorify Lukashenka and the benefits of a “stronger state” while vilifying the opposition. Only state media broadcast nationwide, and the content of smaller television and radio stations is tightly restricted, partly through highly secretive and politicized licensing procedures. Three independent broadcasters transmit their programming from neighboring Poland: BelSat television, Radio Racyja, and European Radio for Belarus. Authorities actively obstruct the work of their journalists, who have been refused press accreditation. In March 2013, BelSat was again denied accreditation by the Foreign Ministry. Most local independent outlets regularly practice self-censorship, especially when reporting on the family and business interests of Lukashenka and his closest allies,’ the watchdog stresses.

For the full version of the report on the situation in Belarus click here.

www.belsat.eu/en, following freedomhouse.org

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