Report – By Reporters Sans Frontières / Pacific Media Watch in Paris
Threats to the media in the South Pacific should not be taken lightly in two Melanesian countries, says the Paris-based global press freedom advocacy group Reporters Sans Frontières.
Papua New Guinea has dropped six places to 41st in the latest RSF World Press Freedom Index with the security forces being “regularly involved in attacks on journalists”.
In Fiji, in spite of a 10-place rise to 107th – explained in part by the decline of other countries in this section of the index, news organisations are threatened under the Media Industry Development Decree with exorbitant fines, or even imprisonment, as in the case of a recently convicted editor of The Fiji Times.
Elsewhere in the South Pacific did not rate a mention in the report, which highlighted the “Burmese spring” in the Asia-Pacific region.
But among other Pacific Islands Forum countries, New Zealand rose five places to eighth and Australia climbed four places to 26th.
Burma was an exception to decline in freedom of information in Asia. The report said:
Only three Asian countries are in the top 25 percent of the table, while 15 countries are among the bottom 45 places.
Unsurprisingly, one-party authoritarian governments figure more than ever among the predators of press freedom and languish at the bottom end of the table.
Burma went through dramatic changes in 2012 and moved up to 151th place, a rise of 18 places, jumping ahead of its usual bedfellows in the media repression stakes.
There are no longer any journalists or cyber dissidents in the jails of the old military dictatorship.
Legislative reform has only just begun but the steps already taken by the government in favour of the media, such as an end to prior censorship and the permitted return of media organisations from exile, are significant steps towards genuine freedom of information.