April 29, 2010

World Press Freedom Continues Decline

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WASHINGTON — For the eighth consecutive year, press freedom around the world declined in 2009, according to an annual survey released April 29 by Freedom House.

The survey, which has documented media independence since 1980, found that only one in six people live in countries with a free press. Equally troubling is the drop in press freedoms in emerging democracies, notably in Namibia and South Africa. The decline in press freedoms in those two countries left no "free" countries in southern Africa for the first time since 1990.

"It's important to celebrate the contributions of Jefferson, Madison and Thomas Paine — and we do," said Ken Paulson, president and chief operating officer of the Newseum, "but it is equally as important to recognize the ongoing battle for freedom worldwide."

The only region to show overall improvement was Asia-Pacific, where Bangladesh and Bhutan went from "not free" to "partly free."

The Newseum's color-coordinated map of the world, located in the Time Warner World News Gallery, reflects the different levels of press freedoms internationally. Countries painted in green enjoy press freedoms. Those in yellow have partial press freedoms. The countries in red allow no press freedom.

The status of six countries changed in 2009:

  • • Namibia and South Africa dropped from "free" to "partly free."
  • • Bangladesh and Bhutan went from "not free" to "partly free."
  • • Madagascar shifted from "partly free" to "not free."
  • • Israel returned to "free" from "partly free."

"Freedom is a universal human aspiration," said Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House. "Every person, no matter where they live, wants to live in freedom."

Windsor said the drop in press freedom had "grave implications for the state of freedom" and emphasized a world "obligation to not only be aware of these disturbing trends but to take action."

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization based in Washington, D.C., that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world and advocates for democracy and human rights.

For more information on Freedom House and the survey, visit www.freedomhouse.org.

Related link: Uneasy overview of press freedom

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