Reporters sans frontiers (reporters without borders) is an organisation watching the freedom of press throughout the world. The ranking order for 2006 is published here. Freedom of press is a good indication of democracy and anyone who believes democracy is the best (or arguably the least worse) system, should watch this. The list has 168 entries. A few things that caught my eye:

  • The US is listed on position 53 (down 9). “Relations between the media and the Bush administration harply 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.”
  • China is on position 163. “China (163rd) has dropped four places. The country’s media outlets are more numerous and aggressive now, but repression, carried out jointly by the government departments of propaganda and public security, has increased. The government of the world’s most populous country stresses that it wants to keep its monopoly on all news, mainly through the state-run Xinhua news agency. Censorship has been stepped up, penalties increased, many news websites shut down and physical attacks have escalated. One journalist was killed by police.”

My country is, in this list, still in the (shared) number one position, but that will surely change next year, by probably between 10 and 20 marks. Reason is that 3 journalists were (unsuccessfully) held hostage by the authorities for not revealing their sources. That would put us between the likes of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

More worrying than obvious repression of journalists doing their work is the increasing self-censorship, fueled by spokesmen and lobbyists. “If you publish this, we’ll never give you an item anymore” is an effective threat, especially with old media under time pressure and eroding revenues.