Tuesday, May 01, 2012


wow, the five former soviet central asian republics performed abysmally in this year's freedom house press freedom ranking (pdf). turkmenistan is in 196th place, which is second-to-last in the world (take that north korea!). uzbekistan is 195th (third-to-last). kazakhstan is 175th (tied with ethiopia and the gambia). tajikistan fairs little better at #171. kyrgyzstan does the best among the five at #155 (tied with iraq and togo), but that's still the bottom 25% and all five are classified as "not free".

the report also gives rankings by region. because former soviet central asia is classified as part of the "central and eastern europe/eurasia" region it gets grouped in with countries like estonia (ranked #22, tied with the U.S.) so that somewhat masks just how pathetic the state of press freedom is in central asia. i think if it were its own separate category, it would be the least free (in terms of press freedom) region of the world.

actually looking at that "central and eastern europe/eurasia" grouping it is really striking how badly most of the 15 countries that came out of the soviet union are ranked compared to the eastern european former communist satellite countries. the bottom 11 countries in that grouping are all former republics of the USSR. (moldova, ukraine, armenia, kyrgyzstan, tajikistan, azerbaijan, russia, kazakhstan, belarus, uzbekistan and turkmenistan). georgia is not far above moldova (the only non-former USSR country between georgia and moldova is macedonia). all that leaves are the three baltic republics (estonia, latvia and lithuania), which each score at the top of the list and those three are all classified as "free". i'm guessing that EU membership accounts for that disparity. for all the EU's problems, i think its record of encouraging former communist countries to become open societies is a real accomplishment.

(i should note my usual reservation about these kind of country rankings. i don't think there is any problem-free methodology to rank countries on issues like "press freedom". but i still like reading these kinds of lists and i do think the lists are basically on to something real. even if there is plenty of room to pick at the exact placement of individual countries there are wide differences in press freedom around the world and these rankings do highlight real disparities).

(via eurasianet)