By Alexis R. Milan
Belize has slipped a notch from last year on the 2015 World Press Freedom Index, ranking 30th on this year’s index, prepared by Reporters Without Borders.
Belize still ranks high, at 30th out of 180 countries, included in the index with a score of 18.54.
On last year’s index, Belize was ranked 29th with a score of 17.05.
The assessment from Reporters Without Borders stated that although cases of violence against reporters are rare in Belize, problems such as defamation suits involving demands for large amounts of money exist.
The report also noted national security restrictions on implementation of the Freedom of Information Act and unfair management of broadcast frequencies as other problems.
Belize is one of only six nations in the entire Western Hemisphere to appear in the top 30 of the index. Canada ranked 8th, Jamaica was 9th. Costa Rica was 6th. Uruguay was 23rd. Suriname at 29th were the other five countries.
The United States continues its downward trend on the index, ranking at 49th this year, down three places from 46th on the 2014 index and 17 spots down from two years ago when the U.S. was ranked at 32nd.
Reporters Without Borders cited a specific incident in which the Obama Administration pressured New York Times journalist, James Risen to reveal his sources.
Although the government backed off in that case, it continues its war on information in others.
Finland, Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands and Sweden made up the top five on the index.
On the other hand, the countries at the bottom of the list, where violence and intimidation of journalists are rampant, include Eritrea, the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Turkmenistan, Syria and China.
Reporters Without Borders is a non-profit organization which monitors and raises awareness about abuses against journalists around the world. It also fights censorship of the media.