Posted: Sunday, April 26, 2020. 6:22 pm CST.
By Aaron Humes: Belize remains ranked 53rd of 180 nations in the annual World Press Freedom Index 2020, no change from 2019, according to the organization Reporters Without Borders/Reporters sans frontières (RWB/RSF).
According to the website, Belize’s press “is extremely polarized,” meaning that coverage of political developments and criminal cases are often controversial. This often results in legal proceedings that are long and costly for media outlets. Cases of threats, intimidation, and harassment of journalists are occasionally reported. Due to inadequate infrastructure, Internet access is among the slowest and costliest in the Caribbean.
Belize’s ranking since 2013 has slipped from 29th to 53rd, a drop of 24 ranks.
Reporters Without Borders states that “the coming decade will be decisive for the future of journalism, with the COVID-19 pandemic highlighting and amplifying the many crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information. It identified five crisis points affecting the future of journalism: “a geopolitical crisis (due to the aggressiveness of authoritarian regimes); a technological crisis (due to a lack of democratic guarantees); a democratic crisis (due to polarisation and repressive policies); a crisis of trust (due to suspicion and even hatred of the media); and an economic crisis (impoverishing quality journalism),” not to mention the ongoing health crisis.
“We are entering a decisive decade for journalism linked to crises that affect its future,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said. “The coronavirus pandemic illustrates the negative factors threatening the right to reliable information, and is itself an exacerbating factor. What will freedom of information, pluralism and reliability look like in 2030? The answer to that question is being determined today.”
Norway tops the Index for the fourth year in a row in 2020, while Finland is again the runner-up. Denmark (up 2 at 3rd) is next as both Sweden (down 1 at 4th) and the Netherlands (down 1 at 5th) have fallen as a result of increases in cyber-harassment. The other end of the Index has seen little change. North Korea (down 1 at 180th) has taken the last position from Turkmenistan, while Eritrea (178th) continues to be Africa’s worst-ranked country.
By region, Europe continues to be the most favorable continent for media freedom, despite oppressive policies in certain European Union and Balkan countries. It is followed by the Americas – North, Central and South – even if the regional heavyweights, the United States and Brazil, are becoming models of hostility towards the media. Africa, which is third, has also suffered major reversals, above all in the forms of prolonged arbitrary detention and online attacks.
World Press Freedom Day will be celebrated next Sunday, May 3.
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