Syria gets 'worst ever' press freedom index ranking in the Reporters Without Borders annual listCredit: Google Maps
The index, now in its 10th year, is a measurement of press freedom on a global scale for the time period of 2011 to 2012.
Its report on the index, which covers 179 countries, also highlighted "many changes" in the list in light of recent events such as the Arab uprisings, which have had "contrasting political outcomes" and mixed impacts on press freedom rankings as a result.
According to the report Tunisia, which is ranked 134th, went up 30 places in RSF's index having given "birth to a democratic regime that has not yet fully accepted a free and independent press", while on the other hand Bahrain dropped by 29 to a ranking of 173, "because of its relentless crackdown on pro-democracy movements, its trials of human rights defenders and its suppression of all space for freedom".
According to the report the most recent index sees Syria, Bahrain and Yemen receive their "worst ever rankings", while Egypt and Libya also fell, by 39 and six places respectively.
"Crackdown was the word of the year in 2011," RSF added in its report. "Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy.
"Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous.
"The equation is simple: the absence or suppression of civil liberties leads necessarily to the suppression of media freedom. Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them."
At the bottom of the list, above the three lowest countries, were Syria, Iran and China, which RSF describes as seeming "to have lost contact with reality".
In Europe, which in 2010 was said to be seeing a deterioration of press freedom overall, the report warns of a "divergence of some European countries from the rest of the continent".
"Within the European Union, the index reflects a continuation of the very marked distinction between countries such as Finland and Netherlands that have always had a good evaluation and countries such as Bulgaria (80th), Greece (70th) and Italy (61st) that fail to address the issue of their media freedom violations, above all because of a lack of political will."
The report also highlights "little progress from France, which went from 44th to 38th, or from Spain (39th) and Romania (47th)".
As for the Balkans, keen to become part of the EU, "media freedom is a challenge that needs addressing more than ever", the report adds.