Canada's press most free in the G8

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has released its annual ranking of global press freedom, and Canada has done pretty well. At least compared with its brethren in the G8, anyway. In fact, Canada was 18th of 169 countries. Our fair nation was one of only two Group of Eight nations to crack the top twenty. Germany came in right under the wire, capturing the 20th spot. The UK was 24th, and the USA was a distant 48th.

The hell? For a group of countries that pride themselves on their 'freedom' and 'democracy', it's pretty surprising to see them rank so low on the list. While I have some concerns with the methodology of the ranking system, it is still an interesting indicator and a reminder that democracy begins at home, and we still have work to do to ensure the effectiveness of our media.

The report alos highlights a disturbing new trend- bloggers and other Internet journalists are now in just as much danger as their old media counterparts. Said the study:

A total of 26 bloggers and online journalists have been convicted and jailed since September 2006 for using their right to online free expression. Cases of Internet censorship are on the increase and more and more repressive governments are realising the threat that the Internet poses in the hands of pro-democracy activists. Bloggers are now being harassed as much as journalists working for the traditional media. Worldwide, 64 cyber-dissidents are currently in prison.

Here's how RSF compiled the rankings:

"To compile this index, Reporters Without Borders prepared a questionnaire with 50 criteria that assess the state of press freedom in each country. It includes every kind of violation directly affecting journalists (such as murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats) and news media (censorship, confiscation of newspaper issues, searches and harassment). Ánd it includes the degree of impunity enjoyed by those responsible for these press freedom violations.

It also measures the level of self-censorship in each country and the ability of the media to investigate and criticise. Financial pressure, which is increasingly common, is also assessed and incorporated into the final score."

So, for example, the USA received it's relatively lower score because of the detention of Al-Jazeera’s Sudanese cameraman, Sami Al-Haj at Guantanamo and the murder of reporter Chauncey Bailey in Oakland. The rankings therefore capture both governmental (Sami Al-Haj) and non-governmental (Bailey) violations of press freedom.

And, for all those people who repeatedly (and annoyingly) criticize Nunc Scio for going after Hugo Chavez, I'd just like to point out that Venezuela came in at 114.