News / Asia

Burma Shines But Asia Press Freedom Dips

Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, editor of
Somyot Prueksakasemsuk, editor of "Voice of the Oppressed," seen here on Jan. 23, 2013, was jailed for 10 years for insulting Thailand's royal family.
VOA News
Burma was one of the few bright spots in Asia last year when it comes to freedom of the press, according to the international rights group Reporters Without Borders.

The Southeast Asian country, traditionally one of the region's most repressive, moved up 18 places in the group's annual Press Freedom Index, thanks to censorship reforms and the release of jailed journalists.

However, the report released Wednesday suggests that overall press freedom declined across the Asia-Pacific region for the second straight year in 2012.

2013 World Press Freedom Index

Most Free
  1. Finland
  2. Netherlands
  3. Norway
  4. Luxembourg
  5. Andorra

Least Free
  1. Eritrea
  2. North Korea
  3. Turkmenistan
  4. Syria
  5. Somalia
Specifically, it reported no progress in North Korea, China, Vietnam or Laos, which are all ruled by authoritarian governments it called "predators of press freedom."

North Korea, which exercises near complete control of the media, ranked second to last in the global index. The report said there are no signs that new leader Kim Jong Un, who took over following his father's death a year ago, will implement reforms.

Benjamin Ismail, head of the group's Asia-Pacific Desk, is similarly pessimistic about press freedom in China, saying the country's new Communist Party leaders have offered little reprieve for journalists and bloggers.

"There were many expectations after the arrival of [Party Secretary] Xi Jinping in China," says Ismail. "But so far nothing has changed and there is a continuation of the policy of repression toward information makers who cover sensitive topics, who dare criticize the government."

The report says many Tibetan monks have been convicted or abducted for sending information overseas about the human rights condition in Chinese-ruled Tibet. It also noted Beijing's ramped up censorship policies against those who post "sensitive" Internet content.

China's Communist neighbor, Vietnam, also ranked poorly. In less than a year, Ismail says, Vietnam has sentenced 12 bloggers and cyber dissidents to jail terms of up to 13 years.

"It now appears that Vietnam is the second biggest prison in the world for netizens [Internet users], just after China. Proportionally, it might even be the biggest," says Ismail.

Perhaps the biggest surprise, according to Ismail, was the performance of Japan, a country that usually does well in the annual rankings, but which had the sharpest drop of all Asian countries this year.

"Mainly the violations that were listed are related to the censorship around the topic of Fukushima and the management of that crisis," says Ismail. "We are aware of several cases of harassment of journalists by the police because they have been trying to publish information on the red zone."

Reporters Without Borders also ranked Japan poorly because of its failure to reform the system of "kisha clubs." The group says those news gathering associations restrict information to non-members, making reporting conditions difficult for freelance journalists and foreign media.

Standing in contrast was Burma, which is recovering from decades of oppressive military rule. Reporters Without Borders says there no longer are any journalists or cyber dissidents imprisoned in Burma. It also praised the ending of pre-publication censorship for Burmese newspapers.

Even so, Ismail says the nominally civilian government of President Thein Sein still must work to change repressive laws enacted by the former military rulers.

"The Burmese government [must] really take on the issue of the legislative framework, because even though the atmosphere has changed....the laws under which the journalists are working, repressive laws, are still there," he says.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs