NAMIBIA'S friendliness towards the media has dropped 12 places according to the latest press freedom index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), according to a report in The Namibian.

The media violations watchdog ranked Namibia 36th in the world and fourth in Africa.

A year ago Namibia was 24th in the world and first in Africa, followed by Ghana, Mali and South Africa.

The Paris-based group gave Namibia the big drop after South African TV journalist Bonita Nuttall was arrested on November 28 last year for doing a report in Namibia after entering the country on a tourist visa. She was freed on payment of two lots of bail.

Ghana was boosted by yet another democratic election in January 2009, in which opposition candidate John Atta-Mills defeated the ruling party's would-be successor to President John Kufuor.

In November last year RSF was one of the organisations which objected to the arrest of Nuttal and urged the government to ease Namibia's relevant legislation, which imposes too many restrictions on foreign journalists wanting to work there.

A presenter on the South African TV station M-Net's investigative programme 'Carte Blanche', Nuttall was arrested at Windhoek international airport as she was about to depart on November 28.

After spending the night in a holding cell at the airport, she was released the next day on bail of N$2 000 pending an initial court appearance. On December 3, the court ordered her to pay additional bail of N$8 000 pending trial in February.

She was arrested for doing a report about the nomadic Himba ethnic group without first obtaining the temporary residence and work permits which Namibia requires of foreign journalists.

RSF surveyed censorship, intimidation and violence against journalists around the world before releasing the latest report.

The media violations watchdog ranked Namibia above countries such as France, Spain, Argentina and Italy.

It said the horn of Africa was again the region with the most press freedom violations.

Eritrea (175th), where no independent media is tolerated and 30 journalists were in prison (as many as in China or Iran but with a much smaller population), was ranked last in the world for the third year running.

Click here to read the full report, posted on The Namibian's website.