Saturday, June 29, 2019

Global State of Freedom of the Press (2019)


“For the third year in a row, 251 or more journalists are jailed around the world, suggesting the authoritarian approach to critical news coverage is more than a temporary spike. China, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia imprisoned more journalists than last year, and Turkey remained the world’s worst jailer. ”

A CPJ special report by Elana Beiser, New York City, December 13, 2018

Global Press Freedom in 2019. This map gives a quick understanding of the state of journalistic freedom around the world.
Via: Freedom House; Washington, DC

The latest report from Freedom House (based in Washington, DC), “Freedom and the Media:A Downward Spiral,” published in 2019, is worth reading. One important of it many important findings is worth emphasizing:
According to Freedom House’s Freedom in the World data, media freedom has been deteriorating around the world over the past decade, with new forms of repression taking hold in open societies and authoritarian states alike. The trend is most acute in Europe, previously a bastion of well-established freedoms, and in Eurasia and the Middle East, where many of the world’s worst dictatorships are concentrated. If democratic powers cease to support media independence at home and impose no consequences for its restriction abroad, the free press corps could be in danger of virtual extinction.
In terms of rankings, the latest from Freedom House is its 2017 Freedom of the Press, which lists Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands as the top three nations with a free press. Other notable nations with a robust free press are Iceland (10th), Canada (20st), Germany (25th) the United States (33rd), and the United Kingdom (38th). At the bottom of the 199 territories surveyed are Crimea (197th), Uzbekistan (198th) and Turkmenistan (199th). The full list of 199 territories and nations can be found [here].

It seems that not much has changed. The 2017 report points out:
The report found that 13 percent of the world’s inhabitants lived in countries with a Free press, while 42 percent had a Partly Free press and 45 percent lived in Not Free environments. The population figures are significantly affected by two countries—China, with a Not Free status, and India, with a Partly Free status—that together account for over a third of the world’s population. The percentage of those enjoying a Free media in 2016 remained at its lowest level since 1996, when Freedom House began incorporating population data into the findings of the report.
Another important ranking comes from Reporters Without Borders (or in French, Reporters sans frontières (RSF), based in Paris, France); in its 2019 report, Norway, Finland and Sweden rank in the top three; Canada is 18th; France (32nd), the United States is 48th. At the bottom of the list, where there is the least press freedom in the world, are China (177th), Eritrea (178th), North Korea (179th) and Turkmenistan (179th). The full list of 179 nations, and their rankings, can be found [here].

Its latest 2019 report confirms what Freedom House says above; it writes:
The RSF Index, which evaluates the state of journalism in 180 countries and territories every year, shows that an intense climate of fear has been triggered one that is prejudicial to a safe reporting environment. The hostility towards journalists expressed by political leaders in many countries has incited increasingly serious and frequent acts of violence that have fuelled an unprecedented level of fear and danger for journalists.
Press freedom is an accurate barometer of a nation’s democratic institutions; in nations where press freedom is high, one can be assured that its democratic institutions are operating not only well, but also fairly. This translates to a high degree of personal freedom and autonomy, in keeping with the favorable values and ideals of liberal democracy.

One of the primary roles of journalists is to hold governments accountable; this can only happen when governments see journalists not as enemies, but as a necessary part of democracy. It is the role of journalists to ask the hard questions; it is the role of journalists to speak truth to power; it is the role of journalists to unearth and gather the facts, and present it to members of the public. In essence, it is the role of journalists to pursue the truth. That is what many do, and the best and the bravest always do.

Journalists are jailed; journalists are tortured; journalists are killed for simply doing their job (34 journalists murdered in 2018, at least 251 jailed). This has become the new norm in authoritarian regimes around the world, not only to silence dissent, but to silence the news. Period. What this says is that much to the detriment of liberal democracy, these fundamental ideas of liberal democracy, founded on the heels of the Enlightenment, have been overtaken by illiberal ideas in many parts of the world. This is the central idea that these two non-governmental non-profit organizations, among others, are stating in their reports.

This might seem gloomy, but what else can one say when the facts speak so clearly? Lies will not do; lies will no longer comfort; is it not true that an edifice built on lies is what got us into this mess? What is true is that the news in regards to democracy is not generally good, and that change for the better would be more than welcome today, if not yesterday.  Yes, such is a truth that most of us would find agreeable.