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AP World Politics
Survey shows that press freedom is not the privilege of the rich nations
Wed Oct 23, 4:58 PM ET
PARIS - Finland, Iceland, Norway and the Netherlands enjoy more press freedom than other countries, while China and North Korea have the least, according to a survey of 139 countries issued Wednesday by Reporters Without Borders.
The survey by the press watchdog group shows that press freedom is threatened in all corners of the globe, and rich nations do not necessarily guarantee liberty of the press better than poor nations.
Slovenia and Costa Rica, for instance, placed 14th and 15th, respectively, in the survey -- ahead of the United States which placed 17th. Switzerland shared 15th place with Costa Rica.
France, where Reporters Without Borders is based, placed 11th -- in 8th position among members of the 15-member European Union. Italy ranked 40th.
The first non-European country on the list is Canada -- in 5th place.
The survey reflects the degree of liberty that journalists and the media benefit from in the countries listed, as well as the policies put in place by each state to ensure press freedom, according to Reporters Without Borders. The survey concerns the period from September 2001 to October 2002.
The list was compiled based on responses to questionnaires filled out by "several independent sources" in each country -- journalists, researchers and specialists of the law, Reporters Without Borders said. Complete responses were obtained from 139 countries.
"Paradoxically, some democratically elected governments have a poor score," a statement by Reporters Without Borders said, noting Colombia ranked 114 and Bangladesh ranked 118. In both cases, armed movements, militias or political parties "constantly put in peril the security of journalists."
More surprising, perhaps, is that "respect for freedom of the press is not the privilege of rich nations," Reporters Without Borders said.
The small African nation of Benin held 21st place in the survey even though it is ranked by the United Nations (news - web sites) as one of the world's 15 poorest countries, Reporters Without Borders said.
The United States' 17th ranking is linked mainly to the number of journalists detained or jailed, with arrests often motivated by journalists' refusal to reveal their sources, the organization said. It added that since the Sept. 11 terror attacks, a number of journalists have been detained for violating security perimeters of official buildings. No details were provided.
No country in the Middle East placed among the top 50 nations in the survey.
Tailing the list was China, followed by North Korea.