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Palestine improves in annual press freedom index

Jan. 30, 2013 3:20 P.M. (Updated: Feb. 2, 2013 3:33 P.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma'an) -- Press freedom improved in the occupied Palestinian territories in 2012, according to an annual assessment released Wednesday by Reporters Without Borders.

Palestine rose eight places to 146 of 179 countries on the Paris-based media watchdog's annual press freedom index, but it still ranked in the bottom quarter of countries.

"An improvement in relations between the Palestinian Authority and Hamas has had a positive impact on freedom of information and the working environment for journalists," the group said.

Israel meanwhile fell 20 places to 112th due to the actions of its military in the occupied Palestinian territories, Reporters Without Borders said.

"During Operation 'Pillar of Defense' in November 2012, (the) IDF deliberately targeted journalists and buildings housing media that are affiliated to Hamas or support it. And the arbitrary arrest and detention of Palestinian journalists is still commonplace," the group explained.

It added that Israeli journalists enjoy real freedom of expression despite the "structural problem" of military censorship which Israel imposes on domestic and foreign media.

Reporters Without Borders recorded a range of changes in the "Arab Spring" countries Tunisia, Egypt and Libya as well as where uprisings are still taking place, like Syria and Bahrain.

The group said Tunisia and Egypt remained at "a deplorable level" due to a combination of legal voids, arbitrary appointments of state media chiefs, physical attacks and lack of transparency.

The deadliest country for journalists in 2012 was Syria, the group said.

Europe tops list again

Finland, the Netherlands and Norway topped the list of countries that most respect media freedom. The three countries also headed the index last year.

The worst three offenders were also unchanged: Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea were deemed the most abusive by the index, which weighs legislation as well as violence against journalists.

"Reporters Without Borders does not take direct account of the kind of political system but it is clear that democracies provide better protection for the freedom to produce and circulate accurate news and information than countries where human rights are flouted," said secretary-general Christophe Deloire.

"In dictatorships, news providers and their families are exposed to ruthless reprisals, while in democracies news providers have to cope with the media's economic crises and conflicts of interest. While their situation is not always comparable, we should pay tribute to all those who resist pressure whether it is aggressively focused or diffuse."

The 2013 survey coincided for the first time with a new global "indicator" of worldwide media freedom. Reporters Without Borders said the analytic tool measures the overall level of freedom of information in the world and the performance of the world's governments in their entirety.

On Wednesday the "indicator" stood at 3395, a point of reference for future years.
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