Cambodia has slipped further down the list of 180 countries assessed in Reporters Without Borders’ newest World Press Freedom Index, which was released late Tuesday.
In 2012, Cambodia ranked 117th, but fell sharply last year to 143rd place before falling again to 144th on the 2014 list. It is one of the countries Reporters Without Borders considers to be in a “difficult situation.”
Cambodia’s spot last year is now occupied by Ethiopia, while Burma comes in just after Cambodia at 145th place.
Among other Southeast Asian countries, Brunei ranked 117th, Thailand 130th, Indonesia 132nd, Malaysia 147th, the Philippines 149th, Singapore 150th, Vietnam 174th and Laos 171st.
Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea occupied the bottom three spots on the list.
Council of Ministers spokesman Phay Siphan said he thought the assessment of Cambodia’s press freedom was unfair.
“I think it is unfair to fill up the report without presenting the facts on the ground,” he said.
“The foreign-language media that is owned by foreigners operates freely in Cambodia, as well as Voice of America and Radio Free Asia, which also operate freely.”
In June, weeks before July’s national election, the Ministry of Information banned the broadcast of Khmer-language programs from foreign stations, immediately silencing shows from Voice of America, Radio Free Asia and Radio France International, which are relayed in Cambodia through such stations as Beehive Radio and the Women’s Media Center.
The ban was short-lived, however, and was lifted following an uproar over the decision.
In recent months, journalists have not been immune to violence. During a peaceful candlelit vigil at Wat Phnom, a number of journalists were attacked with slingshots and electric batons as they covered the event. More recently, pictures have circulated of a photographer cowering from an attack during a protest.
Naly Pilorge, director of rights group Licadho, said she was unsurprised by Cambodia’s low ranking on the press freedom report.
“With the beatings and targeting of journalists, [the report] is quite accurate in terms of how difficult and dangerous it is for the media to work,” Ms. Pilorge said.