Sunday, May 4, 2014

World Press Freedom Index: The Numbers Don't Lie

By Rabin Man Shakya

The World Press Freedom Index: This is how the nations across the world are ranked and extrapolated in terms of press freedom by Reporters Without Borders (RWB), a respected non-profit organization based in Paris, France. The World Press Freedom Index, according to RWB, is a reference tool with seven criteria - the level of abuses, the extent of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legislative framework, transparency and infrastructure.

When it comes to understanding press freedom in countries across the world, the data and ranking released by RWB is of utmost importance. After all, the rankings and numbers extrapolated and released by respected organizations like RWB do not lie. The rankings, palpably, help as warnings and suggestions to the respective governments.

As reported by RWB, Finland tops the World Press Freedom Index for the fourth consecutive year followed by the Netherlands and Norway, whereas at the other end of the index, the last three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritria.

Nevertheless, the United States is a trail blazer in democratic practices. Likewise, countries like Nepal and India are democratic nations as well.. Therefore, the ranking of the US (46th), India (140th) and Nepal (120th) in the World Press Freedom Index may raise some questions about its practical credibility.

But RWB in this regard clarified:"The 2014 World Press Freedom Index spotlights the negative impact of conflicts on freedom of information and its protagonists." RWB went on to say:"The ranking of some countries has also been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed."

This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies, RWB added.   There is no doubt press freedom is a hallmark of democracy. Therefore, where there is no press freedom, there is no democracy either. Therefore, press freedom and democracy have symbiotic ties.

The quintessence of journalism is the news which should be disseminated, published and broadcast in a free, fair and unbiased manner without any restrictions whatsoever. In pluralistic societies, people today depend on the media and social media for the fair and truthful  accounts and details about current events. Free and democratic nations allow the press freedom to report news and views without government meddling. Therefore, it goes without saying that freedom of the press encourages the exchanges of ideas among the citizens and netizens , which is essential for a democracy to work.

Freedom of the press is the right to print, publish and broadcast news, views, facts, ideas and opinions without interference from the government, political parties, private organizations and  business tycoons. This right applies to the print media, including books, newspapers and magazines, and to the electronic media including radio and TV channels as well as to the social media and on-line journalism.

However, the sad reality of press freedom scenario in Nepal is that the government controlled newspapers, radio station and television channel are not in a condition to directly chastise the government for some of its wrong policies and programs, and the private sector newspapers, FMs and TV channels are not capable to speak out against the interests of the tycoons for whom they work. The 'myth' about  journalistic polarization and its politicization and the biasedness seen in the 'mouthpieces' of political parties  are other discrepancies.A number of journalists have been killed in Nepal by government forces, Maoist insurgents and criminal masterminds in the past, and even today many of them still keep receiving threats and intimidation. No wonder, though a democratic country, it will definitely take a long time to enhance Nepal's press freedom ranking.

The Nepalese media fraternity marked the World Press Freedom Day on Saturday (May 3) with a call for greater professional solidarity and guarantee of security for media persons. No doubt, World Press Freedom Day is a solemn occasion for the scribes to strive for raising awareness of the basic principles of press freedom and to remember and pay tributes to those journalists who sacrificed their lives for the cause of the pravda. (truth in Russian).

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