Ranked 151st in the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, Bangladesh is still the lowest among all South Asian countries. In fact, the country has slipped down one notch in the index from last year. Bangladesh has not improved in the press freedom ranking since 2016.
The index evaluates the situation for journalists each year in 180 countries and territories. It is produced by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
RSF said the next 10 years will be decisive for the future of journalism, with the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting and amplifying the many crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information.
The index mentioned that the five areas of crises – a geopolitical crisis, a technological crisis, a democratic crisis, a crisis of trust and an economic crisis – are now compounded by a global public health crisis.
Since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index has assessed the level of pluralism, media independence, self-censorship, legal framework, transparency, and the quality of infrastructure that supports the production of news and information in a country, based on a survey of 87 questions to local media experts.
The index does not evaluate government policy.
From 2013, the countries have been scored on a scale of 0 to 100, with 0 being the best possible score.
The 2020 edition mentions that Bangladesh has "tougher politics, more press freedom violations," giving the country a score of 49.37. The index also mentioned the 2018 digital security law, under which "negative propaganda" is punishable by up to 14 years in prison.
As a result, self-censorship has reached unprecedented levels because editors are reluctant to risk imprisonment or closure of their media outlets, highlights the index.
Some journalists, as well as bloggers, have been victims of violence at the hands of radical Islamist militants in Bangladesh says the RSF.
Lack of press freedom in South Asia
Compared to the 2019 edition, except for Bhutan and the Maldives, all other South Asian countries dropped from their positions in 2020. Nepal dropped the highest at six notches, while other countries dropped between one to three notches.
Bhutan has held the top position since the beginning of the press freedom ranking in South Asia. In the 2020 index, Bhutan ranked 67th, followed by the Maldives at 79.
The Maldives has improved by 19 notches (from 98 to 79) – the highest in South Asia and the second highest globally. Meanwhile, Bhutan improved by 13 notches.
Since 2013, Bangladesh had remained above Pakistan and Sri Lanka. But in 2016, Sri Lanka moved above Bangladesh, and in 2017, Pakistan surpassed the country as well. As a result, Bangladesh has remained below all South Asian nations since 2017.
Norway has retained the top position in press freedom for the fourth consecutive year, while Finland is again the runner-up, followed by Denmark.
North Korea has been listed as the country with the least press freedom, taking away the last position from Turkmenistan.