Press freedom around the world has declined to its lowest level in over a decade, with major setbacks in several Middle Eastern states as well as Turkey and Ukraine
Press freedom globally has declined to its lowest level in over a decade, a major new report has found.
The study, conducted by American NGO Freedom House, examined legal, political and economic factors affecting the media in 197 countries. It found that only 14% of the world’s population are living under a free press, 44% are in countries considered to be not free and 42% are in states with a partially free press.
The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden retain their places at the top of the list for protecting press freedom, with their European neighbours following closely behind.
The world’s eight worst-rated countries remain unchanged, but recent events have seen both Turkey and Ukraine categorised as not free.
Turkey remained the world’s leading jailer of journalists in 2013, with 40 known to have been in prison at the end of last year. In Ukraine, the targeted harassment and violence against journalists has also led to a significant shift down the rankings.
Annual rankings from the Committee to Protect Journalist published earlier this year named Syria as the deadliest place in the world to practise journalism and in 2013, it joined a list of countries where the murder of journalists was likely to go unpunished, for the first time.
While it is one of the stronger performers in the index, the United States suffered a significant negative shift in 2013. Journalists who endeavoured to cover national security issues faced continued efforts to compel them to reveal sources. The practices disclosed by Edward Snowden coupled with the targeted surveillance of Associated Press journalists further impeded the ability for journalists to protect their sources.
While making positive changes with the reform of libel laws, the UK government’s response to the Snowden revelations and GCHQ involvement in mass surveillance, along with the arrest of David Miranda, saw it slip down the rankings.
China maintains the world’s most sophisticated censorship apparatus. The country further declined in the rankings after a crackdown on microblogs in the latter half of 2013.
India also saw a decline in 2013 to reflect interference in content by media owners in the runup to the 2014 elections which led to the dismissal of key editorial staff at several news outlets.
Karin Karleker, project director for Freedom House, said:
We see declines in media freedom on a global level, driven by governments’ efforts to control the message and punish the messenger. In every region of the world last year, we found both governments and private actors attacking reporters, blocking their physical access to newsworthy events, censoring content and ordering the politically motivated firing of journalists.
In 2013 we saw more cases of states targeting foreign reporters and media outlets. Russian and Chinese authorities declined to renew or threatened to withhold visas for prominent foreign correspondents, but the new Egyptian government went a step further by detaining a number of Al Jazeera staff on charges of supporting terrorism.