Findings show decline of free press in RFA countries, with fragile progress in Burma
WASHINGTON – In response to the release of Reporters Without Borders’ 2013 World Press Freedom Index, Radio Free Asia’s President Libby Liu said the survey’s findings show little signs of improvement in Asia with the exception of Burma.
“Once again, North Korea, China, Vietnam, and Laos are ranked among the world’s worst offenders not only for censoring news but also severely punishing citizens and cyber dissidents for accessing and sending out information,” Liu said. “It is also deeply worrying that the report describes the press freedoms situation being ‘critical’ in Cambodia, which is listed among the countries having lost the most ground.
“From using its courts as a cynical means to jail journalists to threatening our reporters behind closed doors in an attempt to dictate how we cover sensitive issues, Cambodia is running away from transparency.”
“Only time will tell whether Burma’s press freedom reforms will take root and form a lasting foundation for free speech. But we hope our presence in this new but fragile environment helps encourage and strengthen the country’s emerging media trends,” Liu added.
The survey ranked North Korea second to last at 178th of 179 countries researched, with China at 174th, Vietnam at 172nd, and Laos at 168th. Burma jumped to 151st place from 169th in last year’s index, with the release of imprisoned journalists, return of exile media organizations, and the beginnings of legislative reform to remove official censorship.
Cambodia fell 26 places to 143rd (from 117th in 2012), with the report stating that “news organizations, in particular independent local and foreign radio stations” are being “subjected to a policy of censorship orchestrated by an increasingly ruthless information ministry,” and that the country’s decline in press freedoms “also involved deadly attacks and death threats aimed at journalists who exposed government corruption and illegal activities harmful to the environment.”
In October, Cambodian cabinet officials summoned reporters from Radio Free Asia and Voice of America to complain about coverage critical of the government and threatened legal action against both broadcasters. RFA described the meeting as a “blatant attempt to discourage objective reporting on the government.”
RFA provides accurate, fact-based news and information via short- and medium-wave radio, satellite transmissions and television, and online through the websites of its nine language services. These include RFA Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan, Uyghur, Burmese, Khmer (Cambodian), Vietnamese, Lao, and Korean.
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Radio Free Asia is a private, nonprofit corporation broadcasting and publishing online news, information, and commentary in nine East Asian languages to listeners who do not have access to full and free news media. RFA’s broadcasts seek to promote the rights of freedom of opinion and expression, including the freedom to “seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media and regardless of frontiers.” RFA is funded by an annual grant from the Broadcasting Board of Governors.