Bangladesh drops behind Pakistan, Afghanistan

RSF website

Bangladesh has ranked 163rd out of 180 nations, according to Reporters Without Borders' (RSF) World Press Freedom Index 2023. The country is behind both Pakistan and Afghanistan in this year’s index – with Pakistan ranking 150th and Afghanistan ranking 152nd.

According to RSF, "The Digital Security Act (DSA) is one of the world’s most draconian laws for journalists. It permits searches and arrests without any form of warrant, violation of the confidentiality of journalists’ sources for arbitrary reasons… In this legislative environment, editors routinely censor themselves."

"Most of the leading private media are owned by a handful of big businessmen who have emerged during Bangladesh’s economic boom. They see their media outlets as tools for exercising influence and maximising profits, and they prioritise good relations with the government over the safeguard of editorial independence," it adds.

The World Press Freedom Index’s analysis for Bangladesh further says: "In the past decade, radical Islamist groups have waged extremely violent campaigns that have led to journalists being murdered. These groups now use social media to track down journalists who defend secularism, the right to alternative opinions or religious freedom."

Asia, in general, did not fare well when it comes to press freedom. India ranked 161st and China ranked 179th in the World Press Freedom Index.

Regarding India, the index’s observations are: “Modi has an army of supporters who track down all online reporting regarded as critical of the government and wage horrific harassment campaigns against the sources. Caught between these two forms of extreme pressure, many journalists are, in practice, forced to censor themselves.”

Reporters Without Borders noted that India has seen a significant decline in press freedom in recent years, with increasing threats and attacks on journalists, while China remains "one of the world’s most repressive countries" when it comes to media freedom.

"The same trend can be found in Bangladesh (163rd) and Cambodia (147th), where governmental persecution of independent media has intensified in the run-up to elections that are due to be held in the coming months," it says.

The top ten countries in the index, with the highest press freedom, are: Norway, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Netherlands, Lithuania, Estonia, Portugal, and Timor-Leste. These countries have strong democratic institutions and robust legal frameworks that protect the freedom of the press and the right to information.

The report highlights the need for governments to prioritise the protection of journalists and the promotion of press freedom as a fundamental human right. It also calls on the international community to take action to hold governments accountable for violating these rights and to support independent journalism around the world.