Azerbaijan has ranked 162 in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index – the annual ranking published by Reporters Without Borders that evaluates the level of media freedom in 180 countries, including pluralism, media independence, and respect for the safety and freedom of journalists.
Azerbaijan has gained one position in comparison with 2016, when it ranked 163. However, it is still languishing near the bottom of the ranking, among countries where media freedom is severely restricted.
The gain in rank may be explained by an overall deterioration of media freedom worldwide, as some countries have risen in the ranking despite little or no tangible progress on media freedom.
21 countries are classified as ‘very bad’, whereas 51 are considered ‘bad’. According to the report, the situation has deteriorated in two-thirds of the countries listed. North Korea (180th place), Eritrea (179th) and Turkmenistan (178th).
Among the CIS countries, Turkmenistan (178th place), Uzbekistan (169th place), and Azerbaijan (162nd place) are the worst offenders.
In Central Asia, all the regional countries lie at the bottom of the ranking, with Kyrgyzstan (89th place) as the only exception, where freedom of media is considered ‘problematic.’ Kazakhstan ranks 157 and Tajikistan ranks 149.
In the South Caucasus, both Georgia (64th place) and Armenia ( 79th place) rank among the problematic countries.
Among Azerbaijan’s neighbors, the situation in Turkey is particularly worrying.
“Turkey is one of the most alarming cases in the 2017 Index. Ranked 155th after falling four more places in the past year, it has fallen a total of 56 places in the past 12 years. The coup attempt in July 2016 swept aside the last restraints on the government in its war against critical media. The ensuing state of emergency has allowed the authorities to disband dozens of media outlets at the stroke of pen month after month, reducing pluralism to a handful of low-circulation newspapers. More than 100 journalists have been detained without trial, turning Turkey into the world’s biggest prison for media professionals”, reads the report.
In Russia (148th place) media freedom is considered ‘bad’, whereas in Iran (165th place) the situation is described as ‘very bad’.
Norway, Sweden, and Finland are the top three countries on the list.