(Petaling Jaya, Friday): Parliament next week should debate Malaysia’s atrocious ranking in Reporters Without Borders’ first worldwide press freedom index, placed 110th out of 139 countries or among some 20 per cent of the nations in the world with the worst press freedom record.
In its first worldwide index gauging respect for press freedom, the Paris-based advocate group for press freedom said press freedom is under threat worldwide, with the situation in Asia being especially bad.
It found that North Korea, China, Myanmar, Turkmenistan and Bhutan are the five worst places among 139 countries and territories graded.
Rich countries, however, do not necessarily mean they have better press freedom, the poll showed. The United States, Britain and Japan were ranked lower than Slovenia and Costa Rica on the list.
Reporters Without Borders said in a statement on the release of the press freedom index that press freedom is “a dead letter” in the worst-ranked countries, where independent newspapers do not exist. “The only voice heard is of media tightly controlled or monitored by the government, " it said.
The top five countries of the press freedom index are Finland, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands and Canada.
Of the Asian countries and territories ranked, Hong Kong came first, winning the 18th position on the list; Japan, second in Asia, got the 26th place, same as South Africa and Austria. Taiwan and South Korea respectively obtained the 35th and the 39th rankings.
As for Southeast Asian countries, Indonesia gained the 57th position, Thailand the 65th, Cambodia the 71st, the Philippines the 89th, Malaysia the 110th, Brunei the 111th, Vietnam the 131st, and Laos the 133rd.
The press freedom index of Reporters Without Borders measures the amount of freedom journalists and the media have in each country and the efforts made by governments to see that press freedom is respected, based on a questionnaire sent to people “with a real knowledge of the press situation in one or more countries, such as local journalists or foreign correspondents living in the country, researchers, legal experts, specialists on a region and the researchers of the Reporters Without Borders International Secretariat”.
The ranking of Malaysia among some 20 per cent of the countries in the world with the worst press freedom index must be taken as a serious national affront and even disgrace, and should be given serious attention by Parliament, with a Ministerial statement followed by a wide-ranging debate on press freedom in Malaysia.
*Lim Kit Siang - DAP National Chairman