This is great for censorship. Putin, Erdogan and other authoritarian leaders are celebrating. We need to fight back the “deep and disturbing” decline in media freedom across every continent, at both the global and regional levels.
The 2016 World Press Freedom Index, recently published by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), shows that every continent has seen its press freedom score decline. The Americas have plunged 20.5%, mostly as a result of the impact of physical attacks and murders targeting journalists in Mexico and Central America. Europe and the Balkans declined 6.5%, mostly because of the growing influence of extremist movements and ultraconservative governments. The Central Asia/Eastern Europe region’s already bad score deteriorated by 5% as a result of the increasingly glacial environment for media freedom and free speech in countries with authoritarian regimes.
This matters enormously because if journalists are not free to report the facts, denounce abuses and alert the public, how would we resist the problem of children-soldiers, defend women’s rights, oppose injustice or preserve our environment? In some countries, torturers stop their atrocious deeds as soon as they are mentioned in the media. In others, corrupt politicians abandon their illegal habits when investigative journalists publish compromising details about their activities. Still elsewhere, massacres are prevented when the international media focuses its attention and cameras on events.
The survival of independent news coverage is becoming increasingly precarious in both the state and privately-owned media because of the threat from ideologies, especially religious ideologies, that are hostile to media freedom, and from large-scale propaganda machines. Throughout the world, “oligarchs” are buying up media outlets and are exercising pressure that compounds the pressure already coming from governments.
Published every year since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index ranks 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It offers a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country. It does not rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking. Nor is it an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country.
You can find more about the report here.