T&T ranks at 36 out of 180 countries in the latest World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders. This is three points higher that the 2019 ranking.
The index was released ahead of World Press Freedom Day which will be observed on Sunday.
In its analysis of press freedom in this country, Reporters Without Borders found that while the Libel and Defamation Act had been partly amended in 2014, “malicious defamatory libel known to be false” is still punishable by up to two years in prison as well as a fine.
The report also found that media outlets regarded as favourable to the government get the lion’s share of state advertising.
There was also concern that several pieces of legislation—the Cybercrime Bill, the Whistleblower Protection Act, the Data Protection Act, and the Broadcast Code—could have “a chilling effect on press freedom and free expression online if adopted.”
Norway tops the Index for the fourth year in a row, followed by Finland and Denmark. At the other end of the Index there was little change with North Korea occupying the lowest position.
Malaysia (101st) and the Maldives (79th) registered the biggest rises in the 2020 Index—22nd and 19th, respectively—thanks to the beneficial effects of changes of government through the polls. The third biggest leap was by Sudan (159th), which rose 16 places after Omar al-Bashir’s removal.
The list of biggest declines were suffered by Haiti, where journalists have often been targeted during violent nationwide protests for the past two years. The country fell 21 places and is now ranked 83rd.
According to the report, the next ten years will be “pivotal for press freedom because of converging crises affecting the future of journalism: a geopolitical crisis (due to the aggressiveness of authoritarian regimes); a technological crisis (due to a lack of democratic guarantees); a democratic crisis (due to polarisation and repressive policies); a crisis of trust (due to suspicion and even hatred of the media); and an economic crisis (impoverishing quality journalism).