Press Freedom 2017

| May 8, 2017

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The rise of “fake news” coincides with a fall in press freedom, according to two recent reports. Both Reporters Without Borders (Reporteurs Sans Frontiers) and Freedom House recently released their annual reports on press freedom, and drew similar harsh conclusions about the state of press freedom in democracies.

The Freedom House report stated: “Global press freedom declined to its lowest point in 13 years in 2016 due to unprecedented threats to journalists and media outlets in major democracies.”

Reporters Without Borders noted that, with the media storms surrounding the American election and Brexit campaign, reporters came under attack, often from their own leaders.

The Freedom House report makes a similar comment. Jennifer Dunham, the director of research, said: “Political leaders and other partisan forces in many democracies … attacked the credibility of independent media and fact-based journalism, rejecting the traditional watchdog role of the press in free societies.”

The Freedom House report also notes that authoritarian leaders, such as Russia’s Vladimir Putin, compound the problem by working to influence media.

The Freedom House report notes that only 13% of the world’s population enjoys a free press, defined as a media environment in which coverage of political news is robust and the safety of journalists is guaranteed, while state intrusion in media affairs is minimal.

Reporters Without Borders notes that, for nearly two-thirds of the 180 countries in their index, press freedom has worsened. In total, 21 countries are classified as “very bad” and 51 as “bad.”

Burundi was added to the “very bad” classification this year after President Pierre Nkurunziza launched a crackdown in 2015 against media outlets that covered a coup attempt. Many journalists fled into exile after being charged with supporting the coup.

In the Reporters Without Borders index, Namibia is the highest ranked African country, sitting at 24th (down from 17th in 2016). Ghana and Burkina Faso held their position in the rankings, at 26th and 42nd, respectively, while Comoros rose from 50th position in 2016 to 44th this year.

The United States sits at 43rd (down from 41st), while the United Kingdom sits at 40th (down from 38th). Canada’s position fell to 22nd from 18th.

Botswana is 48th, up from 43rd last year. Malawi is at 70th (down from 66th) and Tanzania is 83rd (down from 71st).

African countries in the “very bad” ranking include Burundi, Libya, Somalia, Equatorial Guinea, Djibouti, Sudan, and Eritrea.

Read the press release and full report from Freedom House here:

Read the Reporters without Borders Press Freedom Index here: