"Deceptive progress" in the Americas, says RSF in press freedom report

By Alejandro Martínez

Mexico and Cuba were the worst places for journalists in the Americas, tensions between the government and privately-owned media continued to escalate in Ecuador and Argentina, and Canada lost its position as press freedom leader in the continent, according to the 2013 edition of Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index, released on Wednesday.

RSF's annual report ranked media freedom in 179 countries. According to RSF, press freedom was healthier in the Americas than in other regions. On a scale from zero to 100 – where zero represents total respect for media freedom – the Americas received a score of 30.0 from the organization, only behind Europe’s score of 17.5. The worst region for media freedom was the Middle East and North Africa with a score of 48.5.

However, considering the setbacks to freedom of the press documented in the Americas last year, RSF's report said signs of progress in the continent were “deceptive.” Violence and political polarization are still important obstacles for journalism in the Americas.

Some of the highlights of the report regarding the Americas were:


    • In position 171, Cuba was the only nation in the Americas listed among the ten worst countries for press freedom in the world. Besides continuing to be the only country without independent media, Cuba renewed its crackdown on dissent on 2012 and currently holds two journalists in prison.



    • Mexico dropped four positions from last year. In position 153, RSF deemed it “the hemisphere’s most dangerous country for the media.” With six journalists killed last year, members of the press suffered from intense violence and censorship due to the country’s ongoing battle with drug traffickers and the presidential elections last July.







    • Ecuador fell 15 places to position 119 and Argentina dropped to position 54 amid growing tensions between government and privately-owned media in the country



    • Jamaica rose from position 17 in 2012 to 13 this year, the highest ranked country in the continent. RSF did not explain why the Caribbean country’s ranking went up, but Canada’s descent in the index played a part.  Canada went from position 10 in last year’s report to position 20 in 2013, mainly because of its obstruction of the press during last year’s student protests and continued threats to the confidentiality of journalists’ sources. Nevertheless, Canada was still the third highest ranked country in the Americas, after Jamaica and Costa Rica.


Just like last year, the countries with the highest ranking in the index were the Nordic countries of Finland, Netherlands and Norway. Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea – the worst countries for freedom of the press in the world – have been at the bottom of RSF's index since 2005.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.