Taiwan’s level of journalistic freedom leads its east Asian counterparts, the annual World Press Freedom Index report released yesterday by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) showed, with Taiwan staying at No. 51 for a second year.
Hong Kong advanced one position from 70th to 69th place, the list showed.
Japan and South Korea both suffered major reversals, with Japan falling from 61st to 72nd and South Korea from 60th to 70th.
China was the second-poorest in the region, ranking 176th out of 180 countries surveyed, while North Korea took the 179th place, just above last-placed Eritrea.
The top 10 countries were Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, New Zealand, Costa Rica, Switzerland, Sweden, Ireland and Jamaica.
The report said a trend has seen world leaders “developing a form of paranoia about legitimate journalism,” which it said could inspire fear throughout the news industry.
Media freedom in countries in the Asia-Pacific region had either deteriorated or stagnated, it said.
Japan’s ranking dipped due to what the watchdog said was a self-censorship about Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, it said.
The report said that with more Chinese businesses expressing interest in acquiring Hong Kong-based media outlets, the territory’s media freedoms could be compromised.
The report said that China’s oppression of its media had reached new heights, citing the abduction of reporters, televised coercion of reporters made to confess to crimes over their work and terrorizing reporters’ families as examples.
It also targeted Chinese President Xi Jinping (習近平), saying that his calls on local media to defend the Chinese Communist Party is evidence that China has a totalitarian perspective of the media’s role.
Christophe Deloire, secretary general of the Paris-based group, said there had been a decline in media freedom the world over, with the trend particularly worrisome in Latin America.
“All of the indicators show a deterioration. Numerous authorities are trying to regain control of their countries, fearing overly open public debate,” he said.
“Today, it is increasingly easy for powers to appeal directly to the public through new technologies, and so there is a greater degree of violence against those who represent independent information,” he said.
“We are entering a new era of propaganda where new technologies allow the low-cost dissemination of their own communication, their information, as dictated. On the other side, journalists are the ones who get in the way,” he said.