Global press freedom has continued its decline, now at its lowest point in 13 years in 2016 due to unprecedented threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies, intensified crackdowns by authoritarian states, and moves by Russia and China to increase their influence beyond their borders, according to Freedom of the Press 2017, the latest edition of Freedom House’s annual report on media freedom worldwide.
Reporters Without Borders this week released its 2017 World Press Freedom Index of 180 countries, and the news is not good. The report found media freedoms falling in democracies and that “nothing seems to be checking that fall.” Nearly two thirds (62.2%) of countries measured had deteriorated freedoms, while the number of countries where the media freedom situation was “good” or “fairly good” fell by 2.3%.
The Global Investigative Journalism Network is calling on Nigerian authorities to immediately drop all charges against the publisher and a reporter for the investigative news site Premium Times. In a letter sent to Nigerian officials today, GIJN Executive Director David E. Kaplan called the charges “an attempt to intimidate Premium Times from independent inquiry.”
What a year… We’ve been Trumped and Brexited, blitzed by bogus news, and fighting to protect good journalism pretty much everywhere. But there were flashes of hope and better days. The Spotlight movie and Panama Papers showed the world what great reporting can do. As the year draws to a close, we’d like to share the 10 most popular stories on our site that have grabbed the attention of our dear readers.
The second-annual Hitchens Prize—honoring the memory and legacy of the late Vanity Fair contributing editor and columnist Christopher Hitchens—was given to Marty Baron, executive editor of The Washington Post, at a dinner held at New York City on November 28, 2016. This year’s citation acknowledged Baron’s long career in journalism and his work as editor at The Washington Post and earlier at The Boston Globe (featured in the Academy Award-winning movie Spotlight this year). In accepting the Hitchens Prize, Marty offered words of wisdom for journalists in the Trump Era.
Corruption is one of the most dangerous beats for journalists, and one of the most important for holding those in power to account. There is growing international recognition that corruption is also one of the biggest impediments to poverty reduction and good governance. This is why journalists on this beat must be protected, including by multilateral lending institutions such as the World Bank and International Monetary Fund.
Independent news organizations in Indonesia, the Philippines and South Korea are experiencing both direct and indirect challenges in cyberspace, from content blocking to censorship and self-censorship. Edgardo Legaspi, executive director of the Southeast Asian Press Alliance, says threatened governments are “playing catch-up” after recognizing that the Internet can be an effective tool for voices to be heard.
Threats to NGOs and civil society actors have escalated in a number of countries across Asia and the Pacific, among them the arrests of activists opposing the referendum in Thailand and supporters of the West Papua freedom movement in the Pacific.
Journalist Khadija Ismayilova was set free after her final appeal hearing today at the Supreme Court of Azerbaijan two days before her 40th birthday. Ismayilova, an award-winning reporter who exposed the corruption of the ruling Aliyev family, has been in prison in Baku since her arrest on Dec. 5, 2014. “There was no crime,” Ismayilova told the press upon her release. “President Aliyev and his clique decided to get rid of any criticism against them.”
Global press freedom declined to its lowest point in 12 years in 2015, as political, criminal, and terrorist forces sought to co-opt or silence the media in their broader struggle for power, according to Freedom of the Press 2016, Freedom House’s annual report on media freedom worldwide. Only 14 percent of the world’s population enjoys a free press—that is, where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.