The 2014 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders is a reference tool that is based on seven criteria: the level of abuses, the extent of pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legislative framework, transparency and infrastructure. It spotlights the negative impact of conflicts on freedom of information and its protagonists.
The ranking of some countries has also been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed. This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies.
Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway, like last year. At the other end of the index, the last three positions are again held by Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, three countries where freedom of information is non-existent. Despite occasional turbulence in the past year, these countries continue to be news and information black holes and living hells for the journalists who inhabit them.
This year's index covers 180 countries, one more than the 179 countries covered in last year's index. The newcomer is Belize, which has been ranked in the enviable position of 29th. The 2014 index emphasizes the negative correlation between armed conflicts and freedom of information. In an unstable environment, the media become strategic goals or targets for groups or individuals trying to control news and information in violation of the guarantees enshrined in international conventions.
Syria (177th) is rubbing shoulders with the last three countries in the index. In Africa, Mali continued its fall and is now ranked 122nd. Central African Republic (109th) has followed suit, falling 43 places. In Egypt (159th), President Morsi's ouster by the army led by Al-Sisi freed those media that the Muslim Brotherhood had gagged ever since coming to power, but it marked the start of a witch hunt against journalists suspected of supporting the Brotherhood.
There are many examples of governments abusing the "fight against terrorism." In Turkey (154th), dozens of journalists have been detained on this pretext, above all those who cover the Kurdish issue. In Israel (96th), which regained some of the places it lost in the previous index because of Operation Pillar of Defense's impact on freedom of information, the territorial integrity imperative often suppresses freedom of information about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. In Sri Lanka (165th, - 2), the army shapes the news by suppressing accounts that stray too far from the official vision of "pacification" in the former Tamil separatist strongholds.
In the United States (46th, -13), the hunt for leaks and whistle blowers serves as a warning to those thinking of satisfying a public interest need for information about the imperial prerogatives assumed by the world's leading power. The United Kingdom (33rd, -3) has followed in the US wake, distinguishing itself by its harassment of The Guardian.