NZ slumps to 19th as RSF says press freedom threatened by global decline

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Global journalism under political pressure . . . RSF's Rebecca Vincent calls the findings from the latest RSF 2024 World Press Freedom Index
Global journalism under political pressure . . . RSF's Rebecca Vincent calls the findings from the latest RSF 2024 World Press Freedom Index. Image: RSF screenshot APR

David Robie also blogs at Café Pacific

From: Pacific Media Watch

New Zealand has slumped to an unprecedented 19th place in the annual Reporters Without Borders 2024 World Press Freedom Index survey released today on World Press Freedom Day — May 3.

This was a drop of six places from 13th last year when it slipped out of its usual place in the top 10.

However, New Zealand is still the Asia-Pacific region’s leader in a part of the world that is ranked as the second “most difficult” with half of the world’s 10 “most dangerous” countries included — Myanmar (171st), North Korea (172nd), China (173rd), Vietnam (175th) and Afghanistan (178th).

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New Zealand is 20 places above Australia, which is ranked 39th.

However, NZ is closely followed in the Index by one of the world’s newer nations, Timor-Leste (20th) — among the top 10 last year — and Samoa (22nd).

Fiji was 44th, one place above Tonga, and Papua New Guinea had dropped 32 places to 91st. Other Pacific countries were not listed in the survey which is based on media freedom performance through 2023.

Scandinavian countries again fill four of the world’s top countries for press freedom.


RSF’s World Press Freedom Index 2024 – press freedom threatened. Video: RSF

No Asia-Pacific nation in top 15
No country in the Asia-Pacific region is among the Index’s top 15 this year. In 2023, two journalists were murdered in the Philippines (134th), which continues to be one of the region’s most dangerous countries for media professionals.

In the survey’s overview, the RSF researchers said press freedom around the world was being “threatened by the very people who should be its guarantors — political authorities”.

This finding was based on the fact that, of the five indicators used to compile the ranking, it is the ‘political indicator’ that has fallen the most , registering a global average fall of 7.6 points.


Covering the war from Gaza.    Video: RSF

“As more than half the world’s population goes to the polls in 2024, RSF is warning of a
worrying trend revealed by the Index — a decline in the political indicator, one of five indicators detailed,” said editorial director Anne Bocandé.

“States and other political forces are playing a decreasing role in protecting press freedom. This disempowerment sometimes goes hand in hand with more hostile actions that undermine the role of journalists, or even instrumentalise the media through campaigns of harassment or disinformation.

“Journalism worthy of that name is, on the contrary, a necessary condition for any democratic system and the exercise of political freedoms.”

Record violations in Gaza
At the international level, says the Index report, this year is notable for a “clear lack of political will on the part of the international community” to enforce the principles of protection of journalists, especially UN Security Council Resolution 2222 in 2015.

“The war in Gaza has been marked by a record number of violations against journalists and media since October 2023. More than 100 Palestinian reporters have been killed by the Israeli Defence Forces, including at least 22 in the course of their work.”

UNESCO yesterday awarded its Guillermo Cano world press freedom prize to all Palestinian journalists covering the war in Gaza.

“In these times of darkness and hopelessness, we wish to share a strong message of solidarity and recognition to those Palestinian journalists who are covering this crisis in such dramatic circumstances,” said Mauricio Weibel, chair of the international jury of media professionals.

“As humanity, we have a huge debt to their courage and commitment to freedom of expression.”

Occupied and under constant Israeli bombardment, Palestine is ranked 157th out of 180
countries and territories surveyed in the overall Index, but it is ranked among the last 10 with regard to security for journalists.

Israel is also ranked low at 101st.

RSF World Press Freedom Index
The RSF World Press Freedom Index . . . the 2024 map. Link here to the interactive map. Image: RSF

Criticism of NZ
Although the Index overview gives no detailed explanation on this year’s decline in New Zealand’s Index ranking, it nevertheless gives an overview of the media freedom status and then concludes that the country had “retained its role as a press freedom model”.

While the NZ status had declined, many other comparable nations had deteriorated further.

Last December RSF condemned Deputy Prime Minister Winston Peters in the newly elected rightwing coalition government for his “repeated verbal attacks on the media” and called on Prime Minister Christopher Luxon to reaffirm his government’s support for press freedom.

“Just after taking office . . . Peters declared in an interview that he was ‘at war’ with the media. A statement that he accompanied on several occasions with accusations of corruption among media professionals,” said RSF in its public statement.

“He also portrayed a journalism support fund set up by the previous [Labour] administration as a ’55 million dollar bribe’. The politician also questioned the independence of the public broadcasters Television New Zealand (TVNZ) and Radio New Zealand (RNZ).

“These verbal attacks would be a cause of concern for the sector if used to support a policy of restricting the right to information.”

Cédric Alviani, RSF’s Asia-Pacific bureau director, also noted at the time: “By making irresponsible comments about journalists in a context of growing mistrust of the New Zealand public towards the media, Deputy Prime Minister Peters is sending out a worrying signal about the newly-appointed government’s attitude towards the press.

“We call on Prime Minister Christopher Luxon to reaffirm his government’s support for press freedom and to ensure that all members of his cabinet follow the same line.”

Pacific Media Watch compiled this summary from the RSF World Press Freedom Index.

15 COMMENTS

  1. It’s not surprising, given the repression of the Philippine people under the murderous oligarch Marcos, that America and its puppets like Winston are trying to make closer ties to encourage the regime there to get even worse.

    • Not that the current leaders of Philippines are any better – murdering drug users and addicts as if they were dealers – violence in the name of – we know what form of consciousness is best for you … just stick with alcohol and all will be fine … yeah right!

  2. ” Gaza: The Last Picture” ( 2014 ) a tribute to Khalid Hamad  was aired again today marking World Press Freedom Day.
    The opening shots are
    devastating and reflective of the courage of these reporters and cameramen and the people in Palestine.

    ” The harrowing story of the 2014 Israeli attacks on the Shujaiyya district of Gaza City filmed by cameraman Khalid Hamad, culminating in video of his own death.”

  3. Dr Robe – This, the decline in trust with some of the media, is a long time coming…the public deserves better….the Daily Blog provides far, far better insight into events than our $200 million per year TVNZ group…why?

  4. If you regularly read the comments about the press on MSN which I do so you don’t have to do – no don’t thank me – there is an almost visceral hatred of the “MSM” partly due to the idea that it has been bribed by government funds. Apparently though, even though we’ve had a change of government the press are still “atheist/lefty/Communist”. Which sort of goes to show the level of stupidity you’re dealing with. All I can say is that many of my American Internet acquaintances count us as lucky that we don’t have the Murdoch press here – yet. Although to be fair, you can get Fox ‘news’ if you’re willing to search for it. Last I checked it was Channel 88. A significant number.

    • Newstalk ZB doesn’t help our reputation and neither does the embarrassment that is Winston Peters.

        • Only for clowns of the neoliberal right – the rest of us are awake to all that BS (except at the polls when we get our panties in a bunch and protest vote against Labour for have the temerity to put lives ahead of corporate profit during the Covid crisis).

  5. The AO/NZ media is being disassembled because there are mighty powerful people wanting to buy our AO/NZ with as little fuss as possible from we hoi polloi.
    Here’s a short script for our looming fuckedness.
    Premise:
    #1 Get rid of the Treaty.
    #2 Get rid of the Crown.
    #3 Come here all *guns akimbo. Assume ownership.
    I find it interesting that there are powerful censorship and misinformation elements working on our already ingrained ignorances, our preferences for cosseting up to our abusers and our primary agrarian industry hating on Maori.
    Divide then concur? Isn’t that one of Sun Tzu’s quotes from The Art of War?
    ” Your impact is weakened as you are divided and conquered. “…the art of using troops is this: When ten to the enemy’s one, surround him; When five times his strength, attack him; If double his strength, divide him…”
    While we enjoy our bread, beer and circuses the scavengers are circling.
    Right now? This minute? We should be very, very afraid.
    * Guns Akimbo. Bloody good fun.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guns_Akimbo
    P.S. I nearly forgot.
    As I write, our economy’s being deliberately run into the ground to further weaken as against what’s coming.

  6. The whole concept of a “Press Freedom Index” seems flawed to me. It is all too easily used by vested interests. For example Iran traditionally ranks low in the press freedom index, yet when I was in Iran there literally hundreds of news outlets operating, and half a dozen English-language newspapers in Tehran alone (I never managed to count the number of Farsi language papers). Every so often the censor would close down a newspaper for some offence (typically such things as publishing a photograph of a young man and young woman involved in some kind of amorous activity such as holding hands in public). Three days later the paper would be back in circulation under a new masthead, and doing pretty much what it had always done. The Iranian press, like the Iranian people, tends to be very combative despite the institutional censorship.
    Meanwhile in New Zealand we have a very small fourth estate which self-censors either in-house or through the Media Freedom Committee and New Zealanders do not enjoy anything like the range of opinion that is published in such countries as the US, the Russian Federation, or indeed the Islamic Republic of Iran, which has a much more vibrant press than New Zealand. Yet New Zealand is near the top of the index while Iran is down at the bottom.
    The sympathies that I had for Winston Peters (I traveled around the marae of Tai Tokerau with him in the good old days) have suffered the death of a thousand cuts since he first went into coalition with the National Party, but I do think that the RSF criticisms of him are just silly. Peters would say that in arguing against government funding of private media organisations and in questioning ” the independence of the public broadcasters Television New Zealand (TVNZ) and Radio New Zealand (RNZ)” he is actually working for the concept of a truly free and independent press and in that he would have the backing of very many New Zealanders. RNZ’s infamous 2023 purge of staff and content should have seen New Zealand relegated to somewhere near the very bottom of the index, and I do wonder why that did not happen. Perhaps RSF can explain.

  7. With the economy about to boom under the wise guidance of the Coalition we need responsible media.

  8. At a meeting of some local kaumatua yesterday the subject came up of my unlawful arrest and detention by New Zealand Police on Anzac Day. As one might expect, the Police action was unanimously condemned, but one of those present made a most interesting observation. He had been present at the dawn service in Christchurch where, he says, a senior police officer speaking at the parade explicitly spoke out against the Gaza genocide, using that very phrase. So, apparently, the Police are not all of one mind concerning Israel’s war on Gaza. Yet neither the unlawful arrest (which is on the scale of things a rather trivial matter) nor the speech at the dawn parade in Christchurch (which is hugely significant) seem to have made their way into media reports. Why is that? I would suggest because the New Zealand media is one of the most heavily censored in the world. That censorship can work from the top level of government through D notices sent to media outlets, or it can work through the Media Freedom Committee where editors collaborate to decide what can or cannot be published, but mostly it works at the level of the individual editor or chief executive. People like Paul Thompson of RNZ who has his staff sifting through the news with a fine tooth comb to filter out what can not be allowed to come to public notice.
    This is a problem for Dr Robie. He believes in press freedom, but can he tell the truth about the New Zealand media while his salary is derived from training young people in journalism and recruiting them into New Zealand’s fourth estate?

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