RSF index highlights dismal state of press freedom

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A total of 15 journalists and media workers were killed in a series of bombings that began early in the year, nine of them in a single day, the RSF says in a report on its website.

In the 2019 World Press Freedom Index report prepared by Reporters Without Borders, Ghana ranked 27 as against 23 in 2018.

If you consider South Asia in general, it features poorly on the press freedom index, with Pakistan dropping three places to 142, and Bangladesh dropping four places to 150. "Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of the utmost urgency of all people".

It also highlighted the case of Radio-Canada reporter Marie-Maude Denis, who will be the first journalist to challenge the Journalistic Sources Protection Act in the Supreme Court.

The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul also "sent a chilling message to journalists well beyond the borders of Saudi Arabia", down three to 172, the report said.

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"The president's relentless attacks against the press has created an environment where verbal, physical and online threats and assault against journalists are becoming normalized", RSF Interim Executive Director Sabine Dolan tells NPR.

Hungary fell 14 places to No. 87 as officials in prime minister's Viktor Orban's Fidesz political party refuse to answer questions form journalists viewed as non-friendly to Fidesz.

"The media have gradually been turned into political propaganda tools". Nicaraguans covering demonstrations have been treated as protestors or members of the opposition and have been subject to harassment, arbitrary arrest, and death threats.

Further north, the United States' media climate is now classified as "problematic" as a result of an increasingly toxic anti-media rhetoric. The man accused of shooting them had threatened the publication for years leading up to the attack. The change of president in 2015 is said to have been accompanied by unprecedented attacks on the press and the country continued its disturbing decline in 2018.

The experience of the past 17 years confirms that peace and security are what the Afghan people want most, but they can not be achieved and guaranteed without free and independent media and without guarantees for journalists' safety, the RSF says. "And this is how it has contributed to create this climate of fear for journalists", Dolan said.

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Reporters Without Borders noted that freedom of the press in the US has been on the decline for the past few years.

"It is one thing to steer news coverage, by putting things out there or leaking certain stories or trying to avoid coverage of other things-it's entirely another to threaten reporters and to say that news coverage shouldn't be allowed", he said.

Namibia, has been restored to its position as Africa's best-ranked country trailed by Burkina Faso (36th) and Senegal (49th), which all have pluralist media and have little in common with the situation in Eritrea (178th) and Djibouti (173rd), which are information black holes where no independent media are permitted.

But it is not all bad news.

Of the 180 countries evaluated, Nigeria was ranked 120th; a drop from its 119 spot on the index in 2018.

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