Mali is the country that falls the furthest in the Reporters Without Borders press freedom index as a result of the conflict which still divides the nation.

The country, where French troops are currently wrestling control of the north from Islamic militants, was once the star-performer in terms of press freedom, but fell 74 places over 2012 in the index, released on Wednesday.

Reporters Without Borders said the military coup in Bamako on 22 March and the seizure of the north by Tuareg rebels and Al-Qaeda offshoot Ansar Dine "exposed organisations to censorship and abuses".

Many northern radio stations stopped broadcasting, the index said, and in the capital several Malian and foreign journalists were assaulted.

Africa saw a few country's plummet in terms of press freedom, including Somalia where 18 journalists died in bomb attacks or after being directly targeted. Eritrea remains the most repressive media regime in the world in last place.

Arab Spring

However, some countries in Africa have improved. Libya, in the north of the country, rose 20 places following the overthrow of Gaddafi. "The improvements nonetheless need to be confirmed by the inclusion of freedom of information in the constitution and the adoption of laws guaranteeing this freedom and providing real protection for journalists and safeguards for media pluralism and independence," Reporters Without Borders said.

Egypt also saw a slight improvement, as there was less violence against the media than in 2011. However, journalists and netizens (internet citizens) continue to be targeted by physical attacks and prosecutions. The country's new constitution also "contains vaguely-worded provisions that clearly threaten freedoms".

Yemen, however, where the Arab Spring led to Abd Rab Mansour Hadi taking over as president in February, has seen "no legislative changes" and "journalists are still exposed to physical attacks, prosecution and even jail sentences".

Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan occupied the bottom three positions in the ranking, whilst Finland, the Netherlands and Norway occupied the top three. The UK was in 29th position, three places ahead of the USA.