Press freedom is now passé

Singapore ranks 153 out of 180 countries in terms of press freedom, just below Russia. Yup, we’re behind Russia – one of the countries with the most number of journalists killed.

The Reporters Without Borders 2015 World Press Freedom Index released yesterday revealed a drop in Singapore’s press freedom ranking, from its 150th position last year – the worst since the press index started in 2002.

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Globally, media freedom suffered a “drastic decline”, which was attributed to extremist groups like the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Boko Haram.

The Index also divulged that there were 3,719 cases of freedom violation of information in 180 countries in 2014 – an 8 per cent increase from 2013.

Finland, Norway and Denmark topped the list this year, with Finland leading the Index for five years consecutively.

The last three positions went to Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea (a country in the Horn of Africa).

Hong Kong’s Occupy Central protests caused it to fall nine places, to the 70th position.

United States is ranked 49th, 3 places down from 2014 as a result of the government’s “war on information” against WikiLeaks and others. Japan stands at 61st after dropping 2 places while Malaysia is at 147th.

What happened to Singapore’s press freedom?

The Press Freedom Index is “the degree of freedom that journalists, news organisations, and netizens enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom”. Although Singapore’s press never had that much freedom to begin with, we suss out the possible reasons that might have caused our press freedom ranking to take a further dip.

1. PM Lee Hsien Loong Vs Roy Ngerng

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Ngerng published a blog post in May last year, comparing Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong to City Harvest Church’s leaders, who are under prosecution trial for allegedly embezzling $50 million of church funds. Needless to say, PM Lee won the defamation case and Ngerng paid the full S$29,000 incurred for the total cost of court proceedings last week (6 February).

2. Cherian George

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In an interview with Times Higher Education in December, NTU President Bertil Andersson claimed that the decision to turn down Dr Cherian George’s tenure was an academic decision, not a political one. The outspoken journalism professor, who left for a position at Hong Kong Baptist University, rebutted the comments made by his ex-employer. Find out more about the saga here.

Press Freedom Index 2015

Here’s a ranking of 180 countries evaluated, from best to worst:

1. Finland
2. Norway
3. Denmark
4. Netherlands
5. Sweden
6. New Zealand
7. Austria
8. Canada
9. Jamaica
10. Estonia
11. Ireland
12. Germany
13. Czech Republic
14. Slovakia
15. Belgium
16. Costa Rica
17. Namibia
18. Poland
19. Luxembourg
20. Switzerland
21. Iceland
22. Ghana
23. Uruguay
24. Cyprus
25. Australia
26. Portugal
27. Liechtenstein
28. Latvia
29. Suriname
30. Belize
31. Lithuania
32. Andorra
33. Spain
34. United Kingdom
35. Slovenia
36. Cape Verde
37. Organization of Eastern Caribbean States
38. France
39. South Africa
40. Samoa
41. Trinidad and Tobago
42. Botswana
43. Chile
44. Tonga
45. El Salvador
46. Burkina Faso
47. Niger
48. Malta
49. United States
50. Comoros
51. Taiwan
52. Romania
53. Haiti
54. Mongolia
55. Mauritania
56. Papua New Guinea
57. Argentina
58. Croatia
59. Malawi
60. South Korea
61. Japan
62. Guyana
63. Dominican Republic
64. Madagascar
65. Hungary
66. Bosnia and Herzegovina
67. Serbia
68. Mauritius
69. Georgia
70. Hong Kong
71. Senegal
72. Moldova
73. Italy
74. Nicaragua
75. Tanzania
76. Northern Cyprus
77. Lesotho
78. Armenia
79. Sierra Leone
80. Togo
81. Guinea-Bissau
82. Albania
83. Panama
84. Benin
85. Mozambique
86. Ivory Coast
87. Kosovo
88. Kyrgyzstan
89. Liberia
90. Kuwait
91. Greece
92. Peru
93. Fiji
94. Bolivia
95. Gabon
96. Seychelles
97. Uganda
98. Lebanon
99. Brazil
100. Kenya
101. Israel
102. Guinea
103. East Timor
104. Bhutan
105. Nepal
106. Bulgaria
107. Republic of the Congo
108. Ecuador
109. Paraguay
110. Central African Republic
111. Nigeria
112. Maldives
113. Zambia
114. Montenegro
115. Qatar
116. Tajikistan
117. Macedonia
118. Mali
119. Algeria
120. United Arab Emirates
121. Brunei
122. Afghanistan
123. Angola
124. Guatemala
125. South Sudan
126. Tunisia
127. Oman
128. Colombia
129. Ukraine
130. Morocco
131. Zimbabwe
132. Honduras
133. Cameroon
134. Thailand
135. Chad
136. India
137. Venezuela
138. Indonesia
139. Cambodia
140. Palestinian Territories
141. Philippines
142. Ethiopia
143. Jordan
144. Myanmar
145. Burundi
146. Bangladesh
147. Malaysia
148. Mexico
149. Turkey
150. Democratic Republic of Congo
151. Gambia
152. Russia
153. Singapore
154. Libya
155. Swaziland
156. Iraq
157. Belarus
158. Egypt
159. Pakistan
160. Kazakhstan
161. Rwanda
162. Azerbaijan
163. Bahrain
164. Saudi Arabia
165. Sri Lanka
166. Uzbekistan
167. Equatorial Guinea
168. Yemen
169. Cuba
170. Djibouti
171. Laos
172. Somalia
173. Iran
174. Sudan
175. Vietnam
176. China
177. Syria
178. Turkmenistan
179. North Korea
180. Eritrea

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Featured image via Reporters Without Borders
With reference to The Straits Times