DUSHANBE, October 26, Asia-Plus -- Reporters without Borders has issued its fifth annual Worldwide Index of Press Freedom. 

Reporters Without Borders compiled the index by asking the 14 freedom of expression organizations that are its partners worldwide, its network of 130 correspondents, as well as journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists, to answer 50 questions about press freedom in their countries.  The index covers 168 nations. Others were not included for lack of data about them.

Tajikistan is 117th and recognized as the most favorable Central Asian country in press freedom. 

According to the report, the former Soviet Union performs worst for press freedom among European countries.  The situation in Russia (147th) and Belarus (151st) has not improved. Russia, which the report says suffers from a basic lack of democracy, continues slowly but steadily dismantling the free media, with industrial groups close to President Vladimir Putin buying up nearly all independent media outlets and with passage of a law discouraging NGO activity.

In Central Asia, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan are ranked 123rd and 128th respectively.  As far as Uzbekistan (155th) is concerned, the report says, “President Islam Karimov continues to rule the country Soviet-style more harshly than ever since the May 2005 uprising in Andijan.” 

According to the report, the three worst violators of free expression - North Korea, at the bottom of the index in 168th place, Turkmenistan at 167th and Eritrea 166th - have clamped down still further.  The torture death of Turkmen journalist Ogulsapar Muradova shows that the country’s leader, “President-for-Life” Saparmurad Niyazov, is willing to use extreme violence against those who dare to criticize him, the report said.