Seychelles falls 21 places on World Press Freedom Index
The Index is published by the Reporters Without Borders (RWBF), a Paris-based non-governmental organisation. (Seychelles Nation)
(Seychelles News Agency) - Seychelles has gone down 21 places on the World Press Freedom Index going from 13th place in 2022 to 34th in 2023.
The Index is published by the Reporters Without Borders (RWB), a Paris-based non-governmental organisation. The release of the ranking every year coincides with World Press Freedom Day on May 3, a date that celebrates the fundamental principles of press freedom around the world.
The 2023 reports highlights the fact that journalism is threatened by fake content industry and that the situation is “very serious” in 31 countries, “difficult” in 42, “problematic” in 55, and “good” or “satisfactory” in 52 countries. In other words, the environment for journalism is “bad” in seven out of 10 countries, and satisfactory in only three out of 10.
In 2022, the island nation was ranked 13th out of 180 countries and was the highest ranking in Sub-Saharan Africa.
RSF defines press freedom as "the ability of journalists as individuals and collectives to select, produce, and disseminate news in the public interest independent of political, economic, legal, and social interference and in the absence of threats to their physical and mental safety."
The purpose of the World Press Freedom Index is to compare the level of freedom enjoyed by journalists and media in 180 countries and territories. The report is based on five indicators - political, economic, legislative, social and security.
Seychelles lost points in all five indicators and the most points were lost in the legislative and social indicators.
In 2022, the island nation scored 90.25 points in the social indicator placing it 11 but in 2023, went down to 41 with 80.23 points. For the legislative indicator, in 2022, Seychelles scored 83.31 points and was ranked 13 but went down to 43 in 2023 with 76.98 points.
A press statement from State House on Thursday said that "the government of Seychelles has expressed its disappointment with RSF on the ranking of Seychelles, given that Seychelles is a nation where freedom of expression, gathering and in particular the freedom of the media are totally respected, recognised and encouraged."
The statement added that "the government feels that while it is promoting and encouraging responsible journalism and ethical reporting, the RSF failed to understand and analyse what was really happening in Seychelles, but rather depended only on the opinion of certain individuals that do not aspire to such standards."
"Seychelles is committed to promoting the freedom of the media and calls on all media practitioners and media houses to do their best to achieve the highest standards possible in journalism by promoting the truth while abiding by the upmost ethical standards," said the statement.
The chairman of the Association of Media Practitioners of Seychelles (AMPS), Rassin Vannier, who is also the chief editor of SNA, told reporters that "yes, Seychelles has gone down, but we can work with the authorities to get back into the first position in the Sub-Saharan region."
On the question of the sharp decline, Vannier said it was partly due to the change in the RWB methodology used for the Index.
Vannier went on to explain that in order for the country to gain a better position in the ranking, "this simply meant there should be a readjustment in the expectations of the public."
Seychelles, an archipelago in the western Indian Ocean, faced an eventful year in 2022 with the silent protest held by journalists in November following backlash due to an opinion-based programme aired on the national broadcaster Seychelles Broadcasting Corporation (SBC).
Other events that contributed to the decline in the ranking was the sidelining of journalists from the local newspaper 'Seychelles Independent' from the quarterly Presidential press conference.
The vice chair of the AMPS, Joanna Nicette, told SNA that "we cannot expect that side-lining a media house from an event and issuing a non-disclosure clause when covering certain official events among others will not have an impact on our international ratings."
The secretary general of the Linyon Demokratik Seselwa (LDS) party, Gervais Henrie, said that "LDS believes the ranking is unfair and unjustifiable. During the last year, no journalists have been killed in the line of duty in the country; none have been sentenced to jail or fined by the Court; no media houses have been forced out of business by the government; whilst all branches of government have maintained an open-door policy to the media."
He said that LDS noted two points made by the organisation in its assessment.
"One is a fine imposed on a journalist in 2020 and the other is the exclusion of certain journalists from the Presidential press conference. LDS believes that these points do not justify the sharp descent," said Henrie.
He concluded by saying that "LDS is urging all concerned parties to focus on building a better Seychelles, one for its all children, where we can be all proud to be Seychellois which includes having an exemplary press freedom index."
Patrick Herminie, the President of the United Seychelles (US) main opposition party said in his message for World Press Freedom Day that “press freedom is the foundation of democracy and justice.”
He said that the press is the 4th pillar of our democracy and that it is “unfortunate that the press especially social media that could bring harmony and knowledge in our community and our country is today being used for disinformation with the aim to make slanderous statements on citizens.”
Herminie said that press freedom is on the decline.
“We are sad that on the World Press Freedom Index, Seychelles has gone from 13 to 34. We hope that the government takes this development seriously so that Seychelles can regain the respect it had where press freedom is concerned,” he added.