Wednesday, April 17, 2019
Press freedom was in decline worldwide in 2018. The amount of countries where journalists can safely do their work has decreased, according to the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). For the first time, press freedom in the United States was classified as 'problematic'. Free Press Unlimited is deeply concerned about the increasing threat to journalists.

Free Press Unlimited Director of Operations Ruth Kronenburg: "The violence, the threats and the hate against journalists have increased again. This is exacerbated by politicians, who use the language of war in the public debate and designate journalists as scapegoats. By doing so, they provoke violence against journalists and media professionally, whether intentionally or unintentionally. To guarantee our freedoms and our democracy, we have to put a stop to this trend."

United States

Norway claims the top spot in the index for the third consecutive year, trailed by Finland and Sweden. Press freedom in only a quarter of the 180 countries is classified as 'good' or 'satisfactory'. For the first time, press freedom in the US has been classified as 'problematic'. This is due to the deadly attack on staff of the Capital Gazette newspaper in Annapolis and President Donald Trump's hostile remarks about the media. "Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection," RSF wrote in its report.

Climbing and falling

Countries that saw the most dramatic deterioration in press freedom include the Central African Republic (down 33 places), Tanzania (-25) and Nicaragua (-24). In Europe, the situation worsened in Hungary (-15), Serbia (-14) and Slovakia (-8). Fortunately, there are bright spots too: In Ethiopia (up 40 places), Gambia (+30) and Tunisia (+25), press freedom improved markedly. The situation was classified as 'very bad' in 19 countries.

Netherlands falls

The Netherlands falls from third to fourth place in the index. The attack on Panorama magazine and newspaper Telegraaf as well as required round-the-clock police protection of two crime reporters play a big role in this decline. The rise of populist parties is also seen as a factor negatively affecting press freedom in the Netherlands. Representatives of these parties sometimes openly demand the resignation of individual journalists. They deny journalists entry to press conferences and public gatherings. Journalists who cover migration and identity face intimidation and threats more frequently. Especially journalists with a migration background and women are victim of serious threats.

Criteria

RSF uses seven criteria to compile the World Press Freedom Index: pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, infrastructures and abuses.

Go here for the full index.