Paris (AFP)

"Main vaccine against disinformation", the exercise of journalism is "totally or partially blocked" in more than 130 countries, alert Reporters Without Borders (RSF), at a time when the health crisis is adding obstacles to the coverage of the news.

According to its annual world ranking of press freedom, published Tuesday, 73% of the 180 countries assessed by the NGO are characterized by situations deemed "very serious", "difficult" or "problematic" for the profession.

If this share of territories painted in black, red or orange on the world map remains stable over one year, only 12 countries out of 180, or 7%, against 8% in 2020, show a "good situation".

A "white zone" which has "never" been "so small since 2013", according to RSF.

In addition, the Covid-19 pandemic represented "a form of opportunity for states which have been able to restrict press freedom," RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire told AFP.

It has thus exacerbated the repression in the most muzzled countries such as Saudi Arabia (170th) or Syria (173rd, +1), according to the NGO.

The pandemic also "caused a huge shutdown of access" to the field and to sources for journalists, "in a legitimate part, when it came to health precautions, but also illegitimate. In both cases, the question, c 'is: will these accesses be reopened? ", Christophe Deloire warns.

The situation is all the more worrying as journalism is the main bulwark against the "virality of disinformation across borders, on digital platforms and social networks", sometimes fueled by power.

- "Anti-fake news decree" -

Presidents Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil (111th, -4) and Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela (148th, -1) have thus "promoted drugs whose effectiveness has never been proven by the medical world", recalls the NGO.

In Iran (174th, -1), the authorities "multiplied the convictions of journalists to better minimize the number of deaths linked" to Covid-19.

Egypt (166th), for her part, prohibits "the publication of figures on the pandemic other than those of the Ministry of Health".

Malaysia, which has the clearest dropout (119th, -18), recently passed "an anti-fake news decree" granting the "government the right to impose its own version of the truth".

And in Hungary (92nd, -3), where Viktor Orbán's regime "uninhibitedly assumes" the repression of press freedom, information on the coronavirus is "blocked" in particular by the emergency legislation in force. since March 2020, which criminalizes "the dissemination of false information".

At the bottom of the ranking are still China (177th), ahead of Turkmenistan (178th, +1), North Korea (179, +1) and Eritrea (180th, -2).

At the top of the table, Norway retains first place for the fifth consecutive year, ahead of Finland and Sweden, which has once again become third to the detriment of Denmark (4th, -1).

- Brazil in red -

Note, the exit of Germany (13th, -2) from the white zone because dozens of journalists were attacked "by demonstrators close to extremist movements and conspirators during anti-health restrictions rallies".

Europe remains the safest region but aggressions and abusive arrests have multiplied there, especially in France (34th) during demonstrations against the "global security" bill, in Italy (41st), in Poland (64th). , -2), Greece (70th, -5), Serbia (93rd) and Bulgaria (112th, -1).

Across the Atlantic, the situation remains "rather good" in the United States (44th, +1) "even if the last year of Donald Trump's mandate was characterized by a record number of attacks (nearly 400) and attacks. 'arrests of journalists (130) "

The red zone now welcomes Brazil, "insults, stigmatization and orchestration of public humiliations of journalists" having "become the hallmark of President Bolsonaro".

It still hosts Russia (150, -1) which has worked to "limit the coverage" of "demonstrations linked to the opponent Alexeï Navalny".

Finally, if it remains the "most violent" continent for journalists, Africa has experienced some improvement with Burundi (147th, +13), Sierra Leone (75th, +10) and Mali (99th, +9) .

© 2021 AFP