Government does not protect press freedom, report says

Government does not protect press freedom, report says

Political attacks on journalists are on the rise around the world, according to the annual World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.

These attacks include the detention of journalists, the spread of misinformation and the suppression of independent voices.

With more than half of the world’s population going to the polls in 2024, governments are failing to protect journalism, the organization said.

The report comes as the BBC warns that more than 300 of its journalists are now working in exile from their home countries, amid increasing attacks on their reporting.

“Some political groups incite hatred and mistrust of journalists by insulting them, defaming them and threatening them,” the organization – known by its French acronym RSF – said.

The RSF Index ranks 180 countries based on the ability for journalists to work without harassment or threats.

Norway retained its position at the top and “information desert” Eritrea was at the bottom, taking over from last year’s lowest-ranking country, North Korea. The bottom 10 also includes China, Iran, Afghanistan and Syria.

Denmark, Sweden, Netherlands, Finland, Estonia, Portugal, Ireland, Switzerland and Germany round out the top 10.

The UK climbed three places to 23, with RSF criticizing the dominant role held by News UK, Reach Plc and the Daily Mail and General Trust in the market.

Authoritarian regimes across the Middle East have tightened their grip on news and information by “increasing morale”, according to the report.

Four of the world’s largest prisons for journalists, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran, are in the region and continue to detain newsgatherers, according to the RSF report.

At least 100 journalists have been killed in Gaza between October 7, 2023 and May 1, 2024, according to RSF.

The United States (55) has fallen 10 places ahead of the election due to increased attacks on journalists from political players.

The report also criticized the “highly concentrated” model of US media ownership, adding that “many companies that buy American media outlets appear to prioritize profit over public interest journalism”.

In Russia (ranked 162), RSF said the country continues its “crusade” against journalism with more than 1,500 journalists fleeing abroad since the illegal invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The report comes as the number of BBC World Service journalists forced to work in exile has doubled since 2020, reflecting press crackdowns in Russia, Afghanistan and Ethiopia. Many face prison, death threats and harassment.

RSF also warned of the increasing use of generative artificial intelligence and deepfakes, calling its use in spreading misinformation “disturbing”.

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