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World Press Freedom Day Is Today
May 3, 2013
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It's World Press Freedom Day, and Reporters Without Borders has released their annual World Press Freedom Index, along with this map (click for a full-size version) offering their read on how free the press is in countries around the world.

The report is based on some of the following criteria: the legal status of media and whether there are privately owned presses, whether civil lawsuits, criminal prosecution or other reprisals such as physical threats affect how journalists do their job, the status of minority languages, transparency of media licenses, and editorial independence.

Areas of black represent countries where journalists face the most dangers and obstacles, while white represents a relatively free environment for journalism.

The organization also released numbered rankings of countries around the world - and although Canada still shows up white on the map, we have lost a lot of ground this year.

Reporters Without Borders ranks us at number 20 on the list of countries with a free press. Last year we were number 10.

Why has Canada fallen so far in the rankings? According to the report, the lower ranking is "due to obstruction of journalists during the so-called 'Maple Spring' student movement and to continuing threats to the confidentiality of journalists' sources and internet users' personal data, in particular, from the C-30 Bill on cyber-crime."

Protestors march in Quebec against student fee hikes, March 2013 (Photo: AP)

Here are the top ten countries on the list:

1 Finland
2 Netherlands
3 Norway
4 Luxembourg
5 Andorra
6 Denmark
7 Liechtenstein
8 New Zealand
9 Iceland
10 Sweden

This is the third year running that Finland has distinguished itself as the freest country with respect to media. There are hundreds of newspapers published in the tiny country, and the Finnish Newspapers Association alone has 142 members.

The same three countries as last year bring up the bottom: Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.

Here's the list of the lowest-ranking countries on the list.

170 Sudan
171 Cuba
172 Vietnam
173 China
174 Iran
175 Somalia
176 Syria
177 Turkmenistan
178 North Korea
179 Eritrea

Eritrea, slightly larger population-wise than Finland, publishes only a handful of newspapers. The country "continues to be a vast open prison for its people and lets journalists die in detention," according to the Reporters Without Borders report.

A young Eritrean demonstrator outside the Embassy of Eritrea in London, UK, February 2013 (Photo: Getty)

Freedom House, an independent watchdog organization dedicated to the expansion of freedom around the world, called Eritrea one of the world's worst human rights abusers.

Turkmenistan, meanwhile, maintains tight control over media. According to a National Post report, all the country's domestic broadcasting is state-run and newspapers are either state-run or under heavy government supervision.

State media recently avoided showing or even mentioning an incident in which their president, Gurbanguli Berdymukhamedov, fell from a horse. Negative depictions of him are practically nonexistent and in 2012 Berdymukhamedov won 97.14 of the popular vote, which offers some indication of the uphill battles faced there.

And in North Korea, state-run media is tightly controlled by the government. The country's constitution says the role of the press is to "...serve the aims of strengthening the dictatorship of the proletariat, bolstering the political unity and ideological conformity of the people and rallying them behind the Party and the Great Leader in the cause of revolution."

As well as censorship, some journalists around the world face danger and even death.

According to Reporters Without Borders, 90 journalists died in 2012. Canadian Journalists for Free Expression puts the figure at more than 100.

Via Reporters Without Borders


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