Press freedom around the world is deteriorating, report says

International NGO Reporters Sans Frontières (also known as Reporters Without Borders) has published its 2016 World Press Freedom Index, which shows the intensity of the attacks on journalistic freedom and indicates the climate of fear and tension combined with increasing control over newsrooms by governments and private-sector interests.

Below are highlights of the index results.

Middle East: the deadliest region for journalists

The index ranked 180 countries according to the freedom their journalists have. It also includes indicators of the level of media freedom violations in each region, which show that Europe still has the freest media, followed distantly by Africa, which for the first time overtook the Americas, a region where violence against journalists is on the rise. Asia and Eastern Europe/Central Asia follow, while North Africa/Middle East is still the region where journalists are most subjected to constraints of every kind.

Bottom five countries in the World Press Freedom Index ranking. Credit: Reporters Sans Frontières

Bottom five countries in the World Press Freedom Index ranking. Credit: Reporters Sans Frontières

Finland: the freest journalism

Three north European countries head the rankings; they are Finland (ranked first, the position it has held since 2010), Netherlands (second, and up two spots) and Norway (third, and down one spot). The countries that rose most in the Index include Tunisia (96th, up 30 spots), thanks to a decline in violence and legal proceedings, and Ukraine (107th, up 22), where the conflict in the east of the country abated.

Eritrea came last

The same “infernal trio” are in the last three positions: Turkmenistan (178th), North Korea (179th) and Eritrea (180th).

Journalism ‘paranoia’

Following the report publication, the RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said, “It is unfortunately clear that many of the world’s leaders are developing a form of paranoia about legitimate journalism.”

The climate of fear results in a growing aversion to debate and pluralism, a clampdown on the media by ever more authoritarian and oppressive governments, and reporting in the privately-owned media that is increasingly shaped by personal interests.

“Journalism worthy of the name must be defended against the increase in propaganda and media content that is made to order or sponsored by vested interests,” Deloire said. “Guaranteeing the public’s right to independent and reliable news and information is essential if humankind’s problems, both local and global, are to be solved.”

About the World Press Freedom Index

The index is based on an evaluation of media freedom that measures pluralism, media independence, the quality of the legal framework and the safety of journalists in 180 countries.

The index is not an indicator of the quality of the journalism in each country, nor does it rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking.

Cover credit: Estonian World