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WORLD | 03-05-2024 12:39

Media watchdog says press freedom has deteriorated in Argentina under Milei

States doing less to support press freedom, warns media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders in its latest annual report.

Media watchdog group Reporters Without Borders warned of declining government support for press freedom as it unveiled its annual world rankings on Friday, highlighting Argentina among the countries where the situation has deteriorated.

Globally, Norway retained its top position, while Eritrea came last, taking over from last year's lowest-ranked country, North Korea. 

Among the most significant declines were Afghanistan, (which fell 26 places to 178th), Togo (down 43 to 113th) and Ecuador (down 30 to 110th). 

The bottom 10 included China, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Eritrea. 

It singled out Argentina under newly elected President Javier Milei, down 26 places to 66th, saying his decision to shutter the state news agency Télam was a "worrisome symbolic act.”

"The situation is particularly worrying in Argentina after the coming to power of President Javier Milei, whose aggressive stance towards journalism hinders pluralism," said the NGO.

Highlighting concerns in Ecuador, Reporters Without Borders said "the political crisis and the rise of organised crime have disrupted the functioning of democracy.”

The watchdog, known by its French acronym RSF, warned that politicians across a wide range of countries were targeting the media. 

"Some political groups fuel hatred and distrust of journalists by insulting them, discrediting them, and threatening them," it said. "Others are orchestrating a takeover of the media ecosystem."

Respondents in three-quarters of countries (138) reported to RSF that political actors were often involved in disinformation and propaganda, and that this was systematic in 31 countries.

It also highlighted Italy under Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, where a member of her coalition is trying to acquire news agency AGI.

RSF said there was "spectacular mimicry of Russian repressive methods" across Eastern Europe and Central Asia, stretching as far as Serbia, "where pro-government media carry Russian propaganda and the authorities  threaten exiled Russian journalists.”

The most challenging region remained the Middle East and North Africa, where the situation was "very serious" in nearly half the countries, with Qatar now the only country where the situation was not classified either as "difficult" or "very serious." 

Outside of Argentina and Ecuador, the Latin American section of the reports offers some worrying conclusions.

Peru (125th position) stood out in particular. "The country has fallen 48 places in two years," a press release noted.

At the bottom of the rankings in the Americas are Cuba (168th), Nicaragua (163rd) and Venezuela (156th), countries where "journalism is subject to censorship based on arbitrary decisions.”

But it isn’t all bad news for Latin America: the situation is improving in Chile, which climbed 31 places to 52nd, and in Brazil, which moved up ten places to 82nd.

"Political will can lead to better guarantees" for the media, said RSF editorial director Anne Bocandé.

Europe was the only region to include any countries classed as "good.”

Greece was ranked worst in Europe (88th overall), coming below Hungary and Poland. 

Despite improvements in its score, Greece was criticised over its continued failure to deal with a scandal around wiretapping journalists by the intelligence service and the murder of veteran crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz in 2021.

Now in its 22nd year, the RSF report is based on data collected by the group about abuses against journalists, and questionnaires sent to professionals, researchers and rights defenders.


– TIMES/AFP
 

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