April 26, 2016

RSF’s Press Freedom Index: A Growing Paranoia of Journalism

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The latest World Press Freedom Index by Reporters without Borders (RSF) is out, ranking 180 countries based on pluralism, media independence, legal protection, and journalist safety. The news, as you might expect, confirms what we already know: that honest, watchdog media is facing a global backlash and we’re losing ground almost everywhere.

“It is unfortunately clear that many of the world’s leaders are developing a form of paranoia about legitimate journalism,” wrote RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire. The index showed “a deep and disturbing decline” in respect for press freedom, and “a climate of fear and tension combined with increasing control over newsrooms by governments and private-sector interests.”

Published every year since 2002, the index is “a snapshot of the media freedom situation” around the globe. Among the key findings of this year’s study:

Europe (with 19.8 points) still has the freest media, followed distantly by Africa (36.9), which for the first time overtook the Americas (37.1), a region where violence against journalists is on the rise. Asia (43.8) and Eastern Europe/Central Asia (48.4) follow, while North Africa/Middle East (50.8) is still the region where journalists are most subjected to constraints of every kind.

The countries that fell farthest include Poland (47th, down 29), where the ultra-conservative government seized control of the public media, and (much farther down) Tajikistan, which plunged 34 places to 150th as a result of the regime’s growing authoritarianism. The Sultanate of Brunei (155th, down 34) suffered a similar fall because gradual introduction of the Sharia and threats of blasphemy charges have fueled self-censorship. Burundi (156th, down 11) fell because of the violence against journalists resulting from President Pierre Nkurunziza’s contested reelection for a third term. The same “infernal trio” are in the last three positions: Turkmenistan (178th), North Korea (179th) and Eritrea (180th).

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