Friday, May 2, 2014
Free Press Unlimited and research organisation Freedom House released the Freedom of the Press Index 2014 on 1 May 2014. Global press freedom has fallen to its lowest level in over a decade, only 1 in 7 people worldwide live in a country where the media are completely free. For the first time the Netherlands occupies position number 1. This research is compiled and published annually on the occasion of the International Day of Press Freedom on May 3. On this day, worldwide many (media) organisations pay attention to freedom of the press

For the first time the Netherlands occupies position number 1

The Netherlands can always be found in the top part of the press freedom rankings, but this year the Netherlands for the first time is in first place, along with Sweden and Norway. The diversity of the Dutch media, along with the accessibility of foreign media is the reason for the first place. This does not mean that the state of the press in the Netherlands can be called perfect. According to Freedom House, the legislation regarding the protection of sources is not yet in order.


Press freedom around the world at the lowest level in 10 years

The deterioration of press freedom is striking: while worldwide more and more online information sources are available, media are producing less independent reports. The deterioration is attributable to a number of developments: politically it is worse with the protection of journalists and lawlessness increases, fewer attacks on journalists and media actually have consequences for the offender. And as a results journalists are being outlawed in more and more countries, including Mexico and Somalia. Leon Willems is director of Free Press Unlimited: 'We have to fight even harder for the security of journalists, a task that governments more often consciously neglect.'

Payer has the power: ownership as a means of repression

Another important reason for the worsened situation is the increase in financial dependence of the media: more often the funders and advertisers of the media determine what is and what is not being published. Willems: 'In countries such as Russia and Turkey, we see clearly that business and politics are intertwined. The media act as spokesperson of their owner and large conglomerates serve their political and financial interests through the media. Media do not write about things that could harm the interests of their owners. More and more we see that the ownership of media is colouring the news.'

Improvements after advocacy and improvements in Sub-Saharan Africa  

In some areas, the media situation improved. Willems: 'We see that great restrictions for free press, such as the many defamation cases and high tax fines for media, reduced in the previous years. This is something that we and other organisations worldwide have campaigned hard for, it is hopeful to see it pays off.'

The top gainers in the Freedom House Index are Mali and Ivory Coast. Mali climbs up carefully after the changes in political power, but the country is not yet at its level of 2012. In Ivory Coast, censorship by the government decreased, more private owned media appeared and the number of lawsuits against journalists decreased.