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.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has released its World Press Freedom Index, ranking 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists. “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.
Our colleagues are under threat around the world. Since 1992, more than a thousand journalists have been killed, and thousands more are victims of assault, intimidation, imprisonment, and persecution. A number of organizations provide emergency support to journalists in danger. Assistance ranges from medical and legal aid to moving a targeted journalist out of the country. If you are in genuine danger, don’t hesitate to reach out — there is help available.
Reporters Without Borders today released its 2014 World Press Freedom Index, spotlighting major declines in media freedom in such varied countries as the United States, Central African Republic, and Guatemala while noting marked improvements in Ecuador, Bolivia, and South Africa. The same trio of Finland, Netherlands, and Norway heads the index again, while Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea continue to be the biggest information black holes, again occupying the last three positions. You can find RSF’s full index and a 3-dimensional map here. The report is also available in several languages other than English.
How can you protect yourself from online snooping? Reporters Without Borders has published an Online Survival Kit on its WefightCensorship.org website with tools and practical advice that will help protect your communications and data. As the website explains, “The tools and techniques presented in this kit do not require advanced knowledge of computers and programming.” In other words, you don’t need to be an IT engineer to protect your emails and stay anonymous online.
The Reporters Without Borders Digital Survival Kit is available in French, English, Arabic, Russian, and Chinese, and is published under a Creative Commons license.
The percentage of the global population living in countries with a free press is at the lowest level in more than a decade, according to the findings of Freedom of the Press 2013: A Global Survey of Media Independence, a new report by the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Freedom House. The report found that just 14 percent of the world’s population — about one in six people—live in societies “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.” The overall decline in press freedom is highlighted by various cases. As a region, Latin America experienced a further tightening of controls on the media, led by Ecuador and Paraguay, which dropped from Party Free to Not Free. Moreover, there was an important downturn in Mali and a significant deterioration in Greece. The report also notes uneven conditions in the Middle East in 2012, which again ranked as the world’s worst region for press freedom.