New Zealand ranks seventh in latest Press Freedom Index, up one spot

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Reporters Without Borders says Norway's press freedom was "faultless or almost". Photo credit: Getty

New Zealand has been ranked seventh in the world for press freedom, up one place on last year.

2019's Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index says our media is "free", but "its independence and pluralism are often undermined by the profit imperatives of media groups trying to cut costs".

That's in contrast to first-placed Norway, which until recently banned any individual or organisation from owning more than 40 percent of any TV station, radio station or newspaper.

Reporters Without Borders says Norway's press freedom was "faultless or almost".

While in New Zealand, concerns have been raised about the "editorial integrity" of a major news site whose owner was recently bought by an Australian TV network, and the repeated attempts by two of the country's biggest media outlets to merge.

Reporters Without Borders also took aim at the struggles journalists have getting documents from the government and other officials.

"The Official Information Act (OIA)… obstructs the work of journalists by allowing government agencies long periods of time to respond to information requests and allows them to demand hundreds of dollars in exchange for the information.

"The new Government led by Jacinda Ardern disappointed journalists in May 2018 when it said it had no plans to amend the OIA."

Last place went to Turkmenistan, which was described as an 'ever-expanding news black hole'.

"On a pretext of making the cities more visually appealing, the authorities periodically revive a campaign of removing satellite dishes, thereby depriving the public of one of the few remaining ways to access uncontrolled news coverage," Reporters Without Borders says.

Private broadcasters are only allowed if they promote "a positive image of Turkmenistan", which is wholly controlled by President Gurbanguly Berdymukhammedov.

North Korea rose from last to second-to-last.

Reporters Without Borders 2019
The lighter the colour, the better the press freedom. Photo credit: Reporters Without Borders

Only a quarter of the world's nations have "good" press freedom, down from 26 percent last year. The United States has fallen from 45th to 48th, the biggest drop of any nation. Reporters Without Borders explicitly blamed President Donald Trump.

"He has declared the press an 'enemy of the American people'… attempted to block White House access to multiple media outlets, and routinely uses the term 'fake news' in retaliation for critical reporting."

The top 10 nations are Norway, Finland, Sweden, the Netherlands, Denmark, Switzerland, New Zealand, Jamaica, Belgium and Costa Rica.

The bottom 10 are Laos, Saudi Arabia, Djibouti, Syria, Sudan, Vietnam, China, Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan.

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