GLOBAL: West Papua violence hits Indonesian RSF media rankings - NZ, Fiji fall
Thursday, January 26, 2012
PARIS (Reporters sans frontières / Pacific Media Watch): An Indonesian military crackdown in the West Papua region, where at least two journalists were killed, five kidnapped and 18 assaulted in 2011, is the main reason for the country’s fall to 146th position in the annual Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.
A corrupt judiciary that is too easily influenced by politicians and pressure groups and government attempts to control the media and Internet have prevented the development of a freer press, said the 2011 RSF report released today.
West Papua strongly featured in an earlier Pacific Journalism Review media freedom report which condemned Indonesia's human rights record in October.
Fiji, which has a draconian media decree imposed by the military backed regime that seized power in a 2006 coup, dropped again to 117th. The survey was completed before the Pacific country lifted its Public Emergency Regulations (PER) earlier this year.
Countries that have "traditionally been good performers in the Asia-Pacific region did not shine in 2011", the RSF report said.
"With New Zealand’s fall to 13th position, no country in the region figured among the top 10 in the index."
While RSF did not give reasons for New Zealand's drop, the so-called "teapot tapes" affair when police searched newsrooms for a controversial recording of a pre-election conversation of Prime Minister John Key, a temporary parliamentary press gallery ban on the New Zealand Herald and a harsh new search and surveillance law all impacted on the media.
"Hong Kong (54th) saw a sharp deterioration in press freedom in 2011 and its ranking fell sharply," RSF reported.
"Arrests, assaults and harassment worsened working conditions for journalists to an extent not seen previously, a sign of a worrying change in government policy.
"In Australia (30th), the media were subjected to investigations and criticism by the authorities, and were denied access to information, while in Japan (22nd) coverage of the tsunami and the Fukushima nuclear accident gave rise to excessive restrictions and exposed the limits of the pluralism of the country’s press."
The best ranked Pacific Islands nation was Papua New Guinea (35th), three places above France (38th) which has territories in the region.
Samoa (54th) ranked equal with Hong Kong, just ahead of the United States territories and well clear of Tonga (63rd) and Timor-Leste (86th). Vanuatu, which has been a problem over the past year, was not listed. Nor was the Solomon Islands.
"In the Philippines (140th), which rose again in the index after falling in 2010 as a result of the massacre of 32 journalists in Ampatuan in November 2009, paramilitary groups and private militias continued to attack media workers," the RSF report said.
"The judicial investigation into the Ampatuan massacre made it clear that the response of the authorities was seriously inadequate.
"In Afghanistan (150th) and Pakistan (151st), violence remained the main concern for journalists, who were under constant threat from the Taliban, religious extremists, separatist movements and political groups.
"With 10 deaths in 2011, Pakistan (151st) was the world’s deadliest country for journalists for the second year in a row."