Global press freedom eroded in 2009: survey
By Paul Eckert
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Global press freedom deteriorated last year as political turmoil or drug violence engulfed emerging democracies like Thailand and Mexico and authoritarian China and Russia tightened controls, a U.S. annual survey said on Thursday.
Freedom House, which has been conducting such polls since 1980, said 2009 marked the eighth-straight year of deterioration of media freedom, with setbacks in nearly every region creating a situation in which only one of six people in the world live in countries with a free press.
"While there were some positive developments, particularly in South Asia, significant declines were recorded in Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and the Middle East," said Freedom House, a watchdog group funded by private and Western government donations.
Behind the declines, the worst since 1996, was strife in a number of countries that threatened independent reporting, including drug wars in Mexico; political coups in Honduras, Guinea and Niger; and political strife in Thailand, it said.
With China, Russia and Venezuela boosting already strong controls on media, Freedom House said "the year was notable for intensified efforts by authoritarian regimes to place restrictions on all conduits for news and information."
"The Chinese regime has become a world leader in the development of new and more sophisticated methods of information control," said the report, compiled before the U.S. search engine Google Corp quit the China market in a dispute over censorship.
BLEAKEST IN AFRICA, MIDDLE EAST
Russia's situation faltered, the report said, "as legal protections are routinely ignored, the judicial system grows more subservient to the executive branch, reporters face severe repercussions for reporting on sensitive issues, most attacks on journalists go unpunished, and media ownership is brought firmly under the control of the state." Continued...