SOUTH Africa dropped four places in the Reporters Without Borders World Index on Press Freedom for 2011/12.
The index rates 179 countries and lists South Africa at 42, down from the 38th position.
The country rated number one is Finland while Eritrea in North Africa, in last place at number 179, has the worst press freedom.
Raymond Louw of the South African National Editors’ Forum (Sanef) said the drop was not surprising, considering the ruling party’s discussion of a media tribunal and the controversy around the Protection of State Information Bill. “Government has displayed a degree of hostility to the press,” Louw said.
Criteria used to compile the Index included violence and abusive treatment of journalists; censorship; an overview of media control; media legislation; judicial, business and administrative pressure.
The section of the Index reporting on Africa notes that the gap has widened between the good and bad performers in Africa.
The highest African country with the best press freedom record was Cape Verde (ninth). The next best performing African country was Namibia — 20th on the index, performing better than older democracies like the United Kingdom and Japan.
African countries where journalists have suffered violence and abuse include Uganda, which fell 43 places down the list, while Malawi dropped 67 places to position 146.
Louw said press freedom was one of the barometers investors used when deciding on investing in a country.