Latest World Press Freedom Index shows 'drastic decline'; Singapore ranked at No. 153

Journalists filming a map showing the World Press Freedom Index 2015 during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on Feb 11, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP
Journalists filming a map showing the World Press Freedom Index 2015 during a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC, on Feb 11, 2015. -- PHOTO: AFP

PARIS (AFP) - Media freedom suffered a "drastic decline" worldwide last year in part because of extremist groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) and Boko Haram, the watchdog group Reporters Without Borders said in its annual evaluation released on Thursday, which ranked Singapore at No. 153, a drop of three places from last year's ranking of 150.

The ranking of 153 is the lowest-ever ranking the Republic has been given. The position is out of a total of 180 countries and territories.

"There has been an overall deterioration linked to very different factors, with information wars, and action by non-state groups acting like news despots," the head of the Paris-based group, Mr Christophe Deloire, told AFP.

The Reporters Without Borders 2015 World Press Freedom Index stated that there were 3,719 violations of freedom of information in 180 countries in 2014 - 8 per cent more than a year earlier.

All parties in conflicts raging in the Middle East and Ukraine were waging "a fearsome information war" where media personnel were directly targeted to be killed, captured or pressured to relay propaganda, it said.

ISIS, Boko Haram in northern Nigeria and Cameroon, and criminal organisations in Italy and Latin America all used "fear and reprisals to silence journalists and bloggers who dare to investigate or refuse to act as their mouthpieces", said the watchdog, known by its French initials RSF.

North Africa and the Middle East contained notable "black holes" in which "entire regions are controlled by non-state groups in which independent information simply does not exist", the group said.

"The criminalisation of blasphemy endangers freedom of information in around half of the world's countries," the report said, noting that religious extremists sometimes also go after journalists or bloggers they believe do not sufficiently respect their god or prophet.

RSF's ranking put Iran, China, Syria and North Korea among the countries with the very worst levels of press freedom out of the 180 evaluated.

Repression of journalists in Ukraine during its early-2014 uprising against its pro-Kremlin president, and in Turkey during anti-government demonstrations earned both spots in the bottom quarter of the table.

"Police misconduct" during the Occupy Central protests in Hong Kong earned that territory a slide to 70th position.

The best-rated nations were northern European states such as Finland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden, with New Zealand, Canada and Jamaica also making the top 10.

The United States ranked 49, three spots lower than in the previous report, in part because of what RSF said was the US government's "war on information" against WikiLeaks and others.

In South America, Venezuela stood out with a 20-notch fall to a ranking of 137 due to the National Bolivarian Guard opening fire on clearly identified journalists during demonstrations.

Libya dropped 17 places to 154 because of the national chaos that has seen seven journalists murdered and 37 kidnapped.

Russia slipped to the 152nd spot after introducing "another string of draconian laws", website blocking and the extinction of independent media.

"Press freedom... is in retreat on all five continents," RSF declared, claiming its indicators were "incontestable".

Here is a ranking of 180 countries and territories evaluated by the RSF for press freedom in its latest annual report, from best to worst:

1. Finland

2. Norway

3. Denmark

4. Netherlands

5. Sweden

6. New Zealand

7. Austria

8. Canada

9. Jamaica

10. Estonia

11. Ireland

12. Germany

13. Czech Republic

14. Slovakia

15. Belgium

16. Costa Rica

17. Namibia

18. Poland

19. Luxembourg

20. Switzerland

21. Iceland

22. Ghana

23. Uruguay

24. Cyprus

25. Australia

26. Portugal

27. Liechtenstein

28. Latvia

29. Suriname

30. Belize

31. Lithuania

32. Andorra

33. Spain

34. United Kingdom

35. Slovenia

36. Cape Verde

37. Organization of Eastern Caribbean States

38. France

39. South Africa

40. Samoa

41. Trinidad and Tobago

42. Botswana

43. Chile

44. Tonga

45. El Salvador

46. Burkina Faso

47. Niger

48. Malta

49. United States

50. Comoros

51. Taiwan

52. Romania

53. Haiti

54. Mongolia

55. Mauritania

56. Papua New Guinea

57. Argentina

58. Croatia

59. Malawi

60. South Korea

61. Japan

62. Guyana

63. Dominican Republic

64. Madagascar

65. Hungary

66. Bosnia and Herzegovina

67. Serbia

68. Mauritius

69. Georgia

70. Hong Kong

71. Senegal

72. Moldova

73. Italy

74. Nicaragua

75. Tanzania

76. Northern Cyprus

77. Lesotho

78. Armenia

79. Sierra Leone

80. Togo

81. Guinea-Bissau

82. Albania

83. Panama

84. Benin

85. Mozambique

86. Ivory Coast

87. Kosovo

88. Kyrgyzstan

89. Liberia

90. Kuwait

91. Greece

92. Peru

93. Fiji

94. Bolivia

95. Gabon

96. Seychelles

97. Uganda

98. Lebanon

99. Brazil

100. Kenya

101. Israel

102. Guinea

103. East Timor

104. Bhutan

105. Nepal

106. Bulgaria

107. Republic of the Congo

108. Ecuador

109. Paraguay

110. Central African Republic

111. Nigeria

112. Maldives

113. Zambia

114. Montenegro

115. Qatar

116. Tajikistan

117. Macedonia

118. Mali

119. Algeria

120. United Arab Emirates

121. Brunei

122. Afghanistan

123. Angola

124. Guatemala

125. South Sudan

126. Tunisia

127. Oman

128. Colombia

129. Ukraine

130. Morocco

131. Zimbabwe

132. Honduras

133. Cameroon

134. Thailand

135. Chad

136. India

137. Venezuela

138. Indonesia

139. Cambodia

140. Palestinian Territories

141. Philippines

142. Ethiopia

143. Jordan

144. Myanmar

145. Burundi

146. Bangladesh

147. Malaysia

148. Mexico

149. Turkey

150. Democratic Republic of Congo

151. Gambia

152. Russia

153. Singapore

154. Libya

155. Swaziland

156. Iraq

157. Belarus

158. Egypt

159. Pakistan

160. Kazakhstan

161. Rwanda

162. Azerbaijan

163. Bahrain

164. Saudi Arabia

165. Sri Lanka

166. Uzbekistan

167. Equatorial Guinea

168. Yemen

169. Cuba

170. Djibouti

171. Laos

172. Somalia

173. Iran

174. Sudan

175. Vietnam

176. China

177. Syria

178. Turkmenistan

179. North Korea

180. Eritrea

(Source: Reporters Without Borders 2015 World Press Freedom Index)