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Press Freedom

Reporters Without Borders sees Malian media muzzled

Mali has plummeted in Reporters Without Borders' annual press freedom index. An African front-runner for years, Mali is now languishing in the bottom half of the table. The usual suspects bookended the index.

Conflict-ridden Mali used to be an African high-flyer in Reporters Without Borders' annual World Press Freedom Index.

As the country's civil war intensified in 2012, however, press freedom nosedived – with the global watchdog relegating the west-African country from 25th position in 2011 down to 99th position.

Reporters Without Borders tabulates 179 countries according to its perceptions of media freedom. Finland retained its place at the top of the table for a second year in a row, with Eritrea again bottom of the pile, behind even North Korea. Turkmenistan, war-torn Syria, Somalia, Iran and China were also propping up the index. Syria was named the most dangerous country for working journalists, with Somalia next in line.

The Netherlands jumped from equal third position to second at Norway's expense.

Unremarkable German showing

Germany inched down from equal 16th for 2011 to 17th position, with the German Reporter ohne Grenzen arm of the organization saying "most problematic here is the shrinking diversity of the press." The Berlin office pointed to fewer publications generating all of their own content in-house, and to others that were forced to shut their doors altogether.

Reporter ohne Grenzen also criticized a growing commercial and PR influence in the German media landscape, saying that more money was being spent to position certain issues in German journalism. The watchdog reserved praise for new media laws introduced in 2012 making it more difficult to establish cause to search a journalist's home or office.

Though run-of-the-mill by overall European standards, Germany remained ahead of many major international and regional players such as the United Kingdom (29), the US (32), and France (37).

Russia languished down in 148th in the table, 10 spots ahead of restless Egypt and six places ahead of EU-aspirant Turkey.

Japan, down 31 spots to 53rd position, was punished for what the watchdog called a restrictive flow of information in the aftermath of the nuclear accident at the Fukushima power plant.

Reporters Without Borders factors in issues including access to information, reprisals, violence against journalists, variety of media, legislations pertaining to journalism, internet access and censorship when compiling its annual barometer.

msh/hc (AFP, dpa, epd)