Paris, April, 26th, 2017 (RSF). The 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is out. This year, the Index “reflects a world in which attacks on the media have become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise. We have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms – especially in democracies.” For a full analysis of the index, click here.
RSF’s latest World Press Freedom Index highlights the danger of a tipping point in the state of media freedom, especially in leading democratic countries. Democracies began falling in the Index in preceding years and now, more than ever, nothing seems to be checking that fall. The obsession with surveillance and violations of the right to the confidentiality of sources have contributed to the continuing decline of many countries previously regarded as virtuous. This includes the United States (down 2 places at 43rd), the United Kingdom (down 2 at 40th), Chile (down 2 at 33rd), and New Zealand (down 8 at 13th).
Donald Trump’s rise to power in the United States and the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom were marked by high-profile media bashing, a highly toxic anti-media discourse that drove the world into a new era of post-truth, disinformation, and fake news.
In the emerging new world of media control, even the top-ranked Nordic countries are slipping down the Index. After six years at the top, Finland (down 2 at 3rd) has surrendered its No. 1 position due to political pressure and conflicts of interests. The top spot has been taken by Norway (up 2 at 1st), which is not a European Union member. This is a blow for the European model. Sweden has risen six places to take 2nd position. Journalists continue to be threatened in Sweden but the authorities sent a positive signal in the past year by convicting several of those responsible. The cooperation between the police and certain media outlets and journalists’ unions was also seen as a step forward in combatting the threats.
At the other end of the Index, Eritrea (179th) has surrendered last place to North Korea for the first time since 2007. North Korea (180th) continues to keep its population in ignorance and terror – even listening to a foreign radio broadcast can lead to a spell in a concentration camp. Syria is 177th, riven by a never-ending war and still the deadliest country for journalists, who are targeted by both its ruthless dictator and Jihadi rebels.
Media freedom has never been so threatened and RSF’s “global indicator” has never been so high (3872). This measure of the overall level of media freedom constraints and violations worldwide has risen 14% in the span of five years. In the past year, nearly two thirds (62.2%) of the countries measured* have registered a deterioration in their situation, while the number of countries where the media freedom situation was “good” or “fairly good” fell by 2.3%.
Published annually by RSF since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index measures the level of media freedom in 180 countries, including the level of pluralism, media independence, and respect for the safety and freedom of journalists. The 2017 Index takes account of violations that took place between January 1st and December 31stof 2016.
The global indicator and the regional indicators are calculated based on the scores assigned to each country. The country scores are calculated from the answers to a questionnaire in 20 languages that is completed by experts throughout the world, supported by a qualitative analysis. The scores and indicators measure the level of constraints and violations, so the higher the figure, the worse the situation. Because of growing awareness of the Index, it is an extremely useful and increasingly influential advocacy tool.