Transparency International (TI) has found that a majority of countries in the world can be called corrupt, with a clear link between high levels of corruption and little protection of the media and civil society groups.

The global corruption watchdog's annual Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) released on February 21 says that most governments around the world are moving too slowly to curb graft and bribery despite headway in some countries compared with previous years.

Transparency International's report ranks 180 countries and territories by their perceived levels of public sector corruption according to experts and businesspeople.  It uses a scale of zero to 100, where zero is highly corrupt and 100 is very clean.

TI said New Zealand and Denmark ranked the cleanest, with scores of 89 and 88 respectively, while Syria, South Sudan, and Somalia were at the bottom, with scores of 14, 12, and nine.

Western Europe reportedly performed best with an average score of 66.  Sub-Saharan Africa (32), Eastern Europe (34) and Central Asia (34) were those lagging farthest behind.

Tajikistan ranked 161st.

The index ranks Uzbekistan 157th and Turkmenistan 167th. 

Kyrgyzstan ranked 135th of the 180 countries surveyed.  

Kazakhstan ranked 122nd with 31.

This year, the CPI found that more than two thirds of countries score below 50, with an average score of 43.

The CPI report says that “even more alarming, the index results indicate that countries with the lowest protections for press and non-governmental organizations [NGOs] also tend to have the worst rates of corruption.” 

Transparency International examined the relationship between corruption levels and the degree of freedom enjoyed by media and civil society groups for the first time.  It found that almost all journalists killed since 2012 were killed in corrupt countries.

Based on data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, the findings show that more than 9 out of 10 journalists were killed in countries that scored 45 or less on the CPI.  This means that, on average, every week at least one journalist is killed in a country that is highly corrupt.

It was not only the media who had been in the focus of those fostering corruption, TI said, but civil society organizations, too.  Incorporating information from the World Justice Project, TI's analysis shows that most countries that score low for civil liberties also tend to score high for corruption.