, WASHINGTON, Apr 29 – Press freedom worldwide remained under fire and lost ground for an eighth straight year in 2009, the non-governmental US watchdog Freedom House said in a report Thursday.
The largest losses were registered in sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Middle East and North Africa.
The Asia-Pacific region in contrast was the only one where overall progress was made in the year, Freedom House said.
Iran saw the worst decline in the Middle East and North Africa on the heels of the controversial June 2009 presidential election. North African nations lost ground, the report said.
Israel was one of the region\’s few outposts of progress; it regained "free" status after it ended restrictions imposed after the war in Gaza in late 2008.
South Africa and Namibia were among the many nations in sub-Saharan Africa with worsening press freedom. They went from a "free" press ranking to "partly free." Madagascar slid into the "not free" ranks.
In Latin America, the worst cases of lost ground were seen in Mexico and Honduras, while the situation also worsened for newspeople in Ecuador, Nicaragua and Venezuela.
In Asia, Bangladesh and Bhutan moved from "not free" to "partly free." And there were improvements in six other countries including India and Indonesia, but not China.
Russia, according to Freedom House, "remained among the world\’s more repressive and most dangerous media environments."
In western Europe, a region where most nations have a free press, Italy was ranked "partly free" due to the concentration of media and official interference in state media, the report said.
The 10 countries Freedom House deemed worst in 2009 on press freedom were Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, Myanmar, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
"In these states, independent media are either nonexistent or barely able to operate, the press acts as a mouthpiece for the regime, citizens\’ access to unbiased information is severely limited, and dissent is crushed through imprisonment, torture, and other forms of repression," Freedom House said.