Monday, November 13, 2006

Arab News distorts RSF's already distorted treatment of Israel's Freedom of the Press

The unfortunate political skewing of Reporters Without Borders' otherwise valuable work is probably already familiar to most of us. Its use for Israel-bashing at the Arab News site today, however, is interesting:
The Reporters Without Borders has released its annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index for 2006. In its fifth annual report of country rankings, new countries have moved ahead of some Western democracies while “the most repressive” countries are still the same ones.

The three worst violators of free expression remain North Korea (168), Turkmenistan (167) and Eritrea (166).

In the Middle East, some countries improved in rank and some declined. Except for Yemen (149) and Saudi Arabia (161) both of which dropped four places from last year, all the Arabian Peninsula countries considerably improved their rank. Kuwait (73) kept its place at the top of the group ahead of the UAE (77) and Qatar (80). Lebanon has fallen from 56 to 107 in five years as its media — once considered among the freest and experienced in the region — continues to suffer from the country’s instability and the region’s political turmoil. The same thing applies to the Palestinian Authority (134).

Israel, which claims to be a democratic and free society, came 135.
Actually Israel itself came in 50th. Something called "Israel (extra-territorial)" was tied for 135th place with Azerbaijan. Oops!
Arab countries that remain at the bottom of the index are Iraq (154), Syria (153), Libya (151) and Tunisia (148). Egypt (133) has improved 10 places from last year. Other Arab countries fall somewhere between either improving a few places or declining a few.
Speaking of the RSF report, Denmark declined in its ranking because of the Prophet-cartoons:
Denmark (19th) dropped from joint first place because of serious threats against the authors of the Mohammed cartoons published there in autumn 2005. For the first time in recent years in a country that is very observant of civil liberties, journalists had to have police protection due to threats against them because of their work.
Is this unfair to Denmark? It depends on what they are measuring, I suppose. Personally, instead of some sort of nebulous attempt to measure the whole political climate, I would rather have a ranking of which governments are most likley to censor. (And speaking of Arab News, check out this this blistering denunciation of wearing veils.)

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