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Asia tumbles in Reporters without Borders rankings in year of ‘drastic decline’ for press freedom

New Zealand: the freest newspapers in APAC

New Zealand: the freest newspapers in APAC

Singapore has fallen three places in the latest Reporters without Borders’ press freedom ranking, released today, and now features just below Russia.

Hong Kong, Timor Leste, Papua New Guinea and Nepal tumbled heavily in the rankings too – 14 Asia Pacific countries fell, seven rose and four did not move in the table. Of 26 APAC countries, 17 rank lower than 100th.

The Philippines, one of the world’s most dangerous places to be a journalist, jumped up the table, climbing eight places to 141th.

Mongolia was the region’s biggest riser, Timor Leste its biggest faller.

New Zealand, Australia and Taiwan are the freest countries for journalism, North Korea, China and Vietnam the least, according to the study.

Globally, press freedom has seen a “drastic decline” over the last year, the reports finds, due to moves to control the flow of information in a period of widespread conflict and protest.

Violations of freedom of information in the Asia Pacific region increased by one per cent, the second lowest rise in the study of 180 countries besides Africa. Europe and the Balkans took the hardest hit to press freedom, with infringements rising by 5.6 per cent, and EU countries spreading further across the ranking than ever seen before.

Press freedom in Asia Pacific (global ranking and +/- change on 2014 in brackets)

1. (6) New Zealand (+3)
2 (25) Australia (+3)
3. (51) Taiwan (-1)
4. (54) Mongolia (+34)
5. (56) Papua New Guinea (-12)
6. (60) South Korea (-3)
7. (61) Japan (-2)
8. (70) Hong Kong (-9)
9. (103) Timor Leste (-26)
10. (104) Bhutan (-12)
11. (105) Nepal (-15)
12. (112) Maldives (-4)
13. (134) Thailand (-4)
14. (136) India (+4)
15. (138) Indonesia (-6)
16. (139) Cambodia (+5)
17. (141) The Philippines (+8)
18. (144) Myanmar (+1)
19. (146) Bangladesh (0)
20. (147) Malaysia (0)
21. (153) Singapore (-3)
22. (159) Pakistan (-1)
23. (165) Sri Lanka (0)
24. (175) Vietnam (-1)
25. (176) China (-1)
26. (179 out of 180) North Korea (0)

The country where press freedom has suffered the most in Asia is East Timor, where despite setting up a press council and introducing a code of ethics, a tough new media law has led to self-censorship, according to Reporters without borders.

But Mongolia was the biggest riser of the whole survey, jumping 34 places thanks to legislation that has liberalised access to information. Nepal was also among the biggest climbers in the rankings, because of drop in violence against journalists.

“Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents,” the report reads.

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