Bangladesh has ranked the lowest in terms of freedom of expression among its all its neighbours, according to World Press Freedom Index 2018 released by Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF) on Wednesday.

It regretted growing media self-censorship in Bangladesh, saying this is the result of an endemic violence against journalists and media outlets, and “almost systematic impunity enjoyed by those responsible”.

Among 180 countries ranked, Bangladesh has been placed at 146th position in the 2018 index.

It is even nine steps below Myanmar (137th), a country which is widely criticised globally for media muzzling, of late for detaining two Reuters journalists.

In South Asia, India’s position in the index has stood at 138th, Pakistan’s at 139th, Sri Lanka’s 131st, Afghanistan’s 118th, Nepal’s 106th, and Bhutan’s 94th.

RSF, a global voice for media professionals, mentioned that in 2017, at least 25 journalists and several hundred bloggers and Facebook users were prosecuted under the Information and Communications Technology Act. It reportedly penalised online content that is regarded as “defamatory or blasphemous”.

RSF further expressed concern at the move to enact a fresh ‘Digital Security Act’ “with vaguely-worded provisions that would allow the authorities to clamp down even more on dissent”.

Also called Reporters without Borders, RSF mentioned that journalists and bloggers in Bangladesh who resist censorship or self-censorship on subjects such as constitution and religion, “risk life imprisonment or the death penalty”.

“There is real pluralism, but media self-censorship is growing as a result of the endemic violence against journalists and media outlets, and the almost systematic impunity enjoyed by those responsible,” the RSF report observed.

Norway has topped the list and North Korea is at the bottom.

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