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World Press Freedom Index 2021 |21 April 2021

Seychelles climbs up 11 spots


By Laura Pillay


Seychelles is now ranked 52nd of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index 2021, with a score of 25.66, climbing up 11 spots from the 2020 rankings where the country stood at 63rd position.

The index, published by international journalism not-for-profit Reporters Without Borders (RSF) annually, shows that European countries lead the world with regard to press freedom, and that journalism is “totally blocked or seriously impeded” in 73 countries worldwide, and “constrained” in others, which when combined constitute 73 percent of the 180 countries assessed.

Despite the significant improvement in the country’s ranking as compared to preceding years, the report highlights limitations with respect to plurality and funding, in view of the size and demography of the Seychelles archipelago.

While it acknowledges that “self-censorship reflexes linked to decades of a single communist regime and tight control of the press are gradually dissipating, giving way to a diversity of opinions and greater editorial freedom for journalists”, it also makes reference to government control over the country's public television channel and the two radio stations it owns – SBC AM and Paradise FM, elaborating further to note that private media is often politically engaged and tend to deliver biased information.

“The authorities seek above all to protect the country's image as a tourist paradise, making it very difficult to critically address the issues linked to it,” the report states.

Since the first ranking in 2013, Seychelles has gradually climbed up the ladder, with the 2021 ranking the highest thus far. The country was in 2014 ranked 103rd, reached 96th position in 2015, clambered up to the 92nd spot in 2016 before landing the 87th position in 2017. In 2018, Seychelles was ranked 85th, moving a staggering 16 steps up the ranking to 69th position in 2019, and to 63rd in 2020.

As per the report, “although there was less deterioration in Africa’s ‘Abuses’ score, it continues to be the most violent continent for journalists, and the Covid-19 pandemic fuelled the use of force to prevent journalists from working”.

If considered in relation to the African continent, Seychelles ranks fairly well, with seven counterparts ahead in ranking. The top ranked African countries are: Namibia, ranked 24th worldwide with a 19.72 score, Green Cape (Cabo Verde) in 27th position with a 20.09 score, Ghana in 30th position with a score of 21.33, closely followed by South Africa in 32nd position worldwide with a score of 21.59, Burkina Faso in 37th position with a 23.17 score, Botswana with a score of 23.25 who is ranked 38th and Senegal, ranked in 49th place with a score of 25.22.

Sharing his perspective with Seychelles NATION, chairperson of the Association of Media Practitioners of Seychelles (AMPS) Rassin Vanier stated that the ranking is fair, indicative of the evolution towards a more open society and therefore open media, but that there is room to further empower the media to take up their role as the fourth pillar of society.

“The ranking is indicative of the evolution in our society, the media is more open, more people are having their voices heard, and in a sense, it also goes to show the direction that the country, society is going towards,” said Mr Vannier.

“However, with all this, we need to ensure that this freedom is safeguarded. It was just last year that an opposition newspaper was ordered by the courts to pay R600,000 for a defamation matter. The sentence is extremely heavy and sends the wrong kind of message. We cannot have these abusive judgments,” Mr Vanier said.

On the regional front, Seychelles tops the rankings, five spots ahead of Madagascar who secured the 57th rank scoring 28.24, ahead of Mauritius who ranks 61st with a 28.74 score, and the Maldives who rank 72nd with a 29.13 score. The Comoros is this year ranked 84th with a score of 30.65.

As compared to the 2020 World Press Freedom Index, Madagascar has dropped three spots, having secured the 54th rank for three consecutive years between 2018 and 2020, due, in part to the “precariousness of Malagasy journalists and media makes them particularly vulnerable to the influence of businessmen and politicians, who own numerous media outlets”, the report states. The country was ranked 57th in 2017, a rank up from 2016. Madagascar started off in 88th rank in 2013.

Mauritius hasn’t fared any better than Madagascar, this year dropping five ranks to secure the 61st position. The island nation, hailed as a model of democracy, was ranked 56th in the 2020 index, and has this year scored lower, due to the fact that media independence is undermined. The neighbouring state’s rankings have fluctuated somewhat since 2013, staying between the 56th to 70th ranking range. Mauritius started off the ranking in 2013, ranking in at 62nd, dropping to 70th in 2014, securing 68th position in 2015 and moving up seven spots to secure 61st rank in 2016. It climbed up further securing 56th rank in 2017 and 2018, dropping two places to 56th in 2019, reclaiming the 56th rank again in 2020.

On the other hand, the Maldives have steadily been improving their ranking from 2018 onwards, having dropped continuously between 2013 and 2018. The islands ranked 103rd in 2013, 108th in 2014, secured 112th in both 2015 and 2016 before dropping five ranks to 117th in 2017. Its rank further worsened in 2018, before improving significantly in 2019 when it jumped to 98th position. In 2020, it secured the 79th rank.

On the global front, the top-10 ranked countries are: Norway (6.72) who secured the top spot for the fifth year running, Finland (6.99) who maintained its position, Sweden (7.24), Denmark (8.57), Costa Rica (8.76), Netherlands (9.67), Jamaica (9.96), New Zealand (10.04), Portugal (10.11) and Switzerland (10.55).



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