S'pore's press freedom ranking jumps from 160 to 139

Its overall score has dropped marginally.

Kayla Wong | May 04, 2022, 01:31 PM

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Singapore has been ranked 139 out of 180 countries and territories in a global press freedom ranking in 2022 by Paris-based international campaign group Reporters Without Borders.

While the city-state's ranking has leaped by 21 places from the previous year, its score has dropped marginally, from 44.8 last year to 44.23 this year.

The five indicators that were used to assess the rankings are political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context, and security.

Graphic via Reporters Without Borders

According to the non-profit group, the indicators were assessed based on the responses of "press freedom experts" selected by the group, including "journalists, academics and human rights defenders".

"Almost non-existent" press freedom

In its country profile, Singapore was described as being "a model of economic development but it is an example of what not to be in regard to freedom of the press, which is almost non-existent".

Citing the closure of The Online Citizen as an example of "harassment by the authorities, the report further asserted that Singapore "does not fall short of China when it comes to suppressing press freedom".

TOC's class licence was cancelled by the Infocomm Media Development Authority -- described by the activist group as "a censorship office" -- after it "refused to comply" with its licence conditions as a registered Internet Content Provider, despite multiple reminders and extensions of time.

Myanmar ranked top 10 worst places for press freedom

In contrast to Singapore, while Malaysia's ranking has only risen by six places, its score has dropped significantly from 60.53 to 51.5.

Other Southeast Asian countries that have risen in their rankings include Thailand (137 to 115), Laos (172 to 161), and Cambodia (144 to 142).

On the other hand, Myanmar, whose present military government launched a coup early 2021 and opened fire on its own citizens amid a harsh crackdown, has plummeted in ranking from 140 to 176.

According to the report, at least 115 journalists were arrested last year while covering the people's protests against the junta, with several sustaining extensive injuries in the process.

Currently, 57 journalists are being detained.

In addition, at least three journalists have been killed since the coup was launched, with photographer Soe Naing reportedly dying a few days after "violent interrogation" in police custody.

Indonesia (113 to 117) and the Philippines (138 to 147) have dropped slightly in their rankings as well, with the report claiming that journalists in the latter country who do not toe the government line are branded as "subversive elements".

Hong Kong fell 60 places

The Chinese territory of Hong Kong, which has fallen 60 places from the previous index, was ranked one place (148) behind the Philippines.

Along with Myanmar, the city was classified as one of 28 "very bad" places for press freedom.

Citing the National Security Law imposed by Beijing in 2020, the report asserted that the city has suffered an unprecedented setback in its press freedom, which it was once known for.

The closure of major pro-decmocracy news outlets Apple Daily and Stand News, among other smaller-scale news sites, was mentioned as well as an example of a deterioration of the city's media landscape.

China (175) was placed just five spots above North Korea, which at 180, was rock bottom on the list -- both countries were included in the top 10 worst places to be in for press freedom.

The report asserted that journalists were kept from reporting on issues deemed sensitive by the state, and that in a media landscape where major Chinese media outlets are state-owned and expected to impart state propaganda, the government continues to repress information.

Top image via @kapoorparas28/Unsplash & Reporters Without Borders