Fifth in Arab world; first in Gulf region

KUWAIT: Kuwait ranked 108th out of 180 countries in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index released yesterday by Reporters Without Borders, which indicates that the Middle East and North Africa region continues to be the most difficult and dangerous for journalists. Finishing with a global score of 33.86, Kuwait remained stable, keeping the same ranking it secured in last year’s index.

This ranking puts Kuwait in fifth place in the Arab world after the Comoros (56) Tunisia (72), Mauritania (94) and Lebanon (101), and first among Gulf Cooperation Council states, followed by Qatar (128), Oman (132), the United Arab Emirates (133), Bahrain (167) and Saudi Arabia (172).

Norway is ranked first in the 2019 index for the third year running while Finland (up two places) has taken second place from the Netherlands (down one at 4th).

In Africa, the rankings of Ethiopia (up 40 at 110th) and Gambia (up 30 at 92nd) have significantly improved from last year’s index. At the bottom of the index, both Vietnam (176th) and China (177th) have fallen one place, Eritrea (up one place to 178th) is third from last, and Turkmenistan (down two at 180th) is now last, replacing North Korea (up one at 179th).

Only 24 percent of the 180 countries and territories are classified as “good” or “fairly good,” as opposed to 26 percent last year. As a result of an increasingly hostile climate that goes beyond Donald Trump’s comments, the United States (48th) has fallen three places in this year’s index and the media climate is now classified as “problematic,” the report noted.

Reporters Without Borders determines the degree of press and journalist freedom in 180 countries through a qualitative analysis combined with quantitative data which measures: “abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated. The criteria evaluated in the questionnaire are pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information,” according to the 2019 World Press Freedom Index report.

The report warned that an intense climate of fear has been triggered - one that is prejudicial to a safe reporting environment, noting that the number of countries regarded as safe, where journalists can work in complete security, continues to decline.

“If the political debate slides surreptitiously or openly towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger,” Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of the utmost urgency for all people of good will who value the freedoms acquired in the course of history.

By Ahmad Jabr