Political leaders threaten press freedom worldwide

In this image released by the World Press Photo Foundation Thursday April 11, 2019, titled "The Disappearance of Jamal Kashoggi" by Chris McGrath, Getty Images, which was awarded first prize in the General News, Singles, category, shows an unidentified man trying to hold back the press as Saudi investigators arrive at the Saudi Arabian Consulate in Istanbul, Turkey, amid a growing international backlash to the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi. (Chris McGrath, Getty Images, World Press Photo via AP)

Populist and authoritarian leaders whip up hatred that is increasingly reflected as violence against journalists warned Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

Norway is still the best country for journalists showed the organisation’s annual press freedom index. At the same time, according to RSF, the number of countries where journalists can work safely has plunged.

The organization is particularly concerned about political leaders’ hostility towards the media and their contribution to spreading hatred against journalists.

“It has encouraged increasingly serious and frequent acts of violence, which have contributed to fear and danger for journalists having increased to unprecedented levels” said the report published on Thursday.

Press freedom has a good track record in less than a quarter of the 180 countries on the list.


“If the political debate is moving towards a civil war-like atmosphere, where journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger” said RSF leader, Christophe Deloire.

The United States has dropped three places and is now ranked number 48 on the press freedom index. The period since Donald

Trump was elected president in 2016 has been one of the darkest for US journalists believe RSF.

The Paris-based organization pointed to Trump’s own press-rhetoric and links it to harassment aimed specifically at women and dark-skinned journalists.

Attack on newspaper

“Never before have American journalists been subjected to so many death threats, or have so often used private security companies to protect themselves” the report said, highlighting the attack on a newspaper in Annapolis, Maryland. A dissatisfied reader shot and killed five employees in the editorial office.

The RSF further fear that an increasing wave of authoritarian leaders in the world is boundless, and pointed to the murder of journalist, Jamal Khashoggi, in Saudi Arabia’s consulate in Istanbul.

The murder sent a “terrifying message to journalists far beyond
Saudi Arabia’s borders” it said. The authoritarian kingdom moved
down three places to 172 on the index.

Russian pioneer

Turkey, which has imprisoned more journalists than any other country,
is ranked among the worst countries on the press freedom index.

‘’The oppression continues towards the few critical media left’’ said
RSF, who pointed out that the largest media company in Turkey has
now been taken over by a government-friendly group.

The report stamped Russia as a “pioneer in oppression”. This year, the
country moved down to 149th place.

The world’s largest democracy, India, shifted two notches to 140th place.

Here, six journalists were killed last year, and the RSF emphasized that critics of the government party’s Hindu nationalism are being stamped as anti-Indian in online harassment campaigns.

The Nordic Region at the top

In Brazil, which is in 105th place, journalists have been shooting targets for supporters of right-wing president, Jair Bolsonaro, it said.

Norway tops the index for the third consecutive year, while Finland has replaced Sweden in second place. The Swedes moved to third place because of an increase in online harassment. Minister of Culture, Trine Skei Grande of Venstre (V) is concerned about the development.

‘’We see an increasingly hostile rhetoric from many state leaders against journalists and media. When the media is attacked, democracy is weakening’’ said Grande.

‘’Journalists are at work for all of us. They are harassed, threatened, and killed all over the world doing their job. And it doesn’t get any better, but worse. It worries me’’ said the media minister.


At the bottom of the list, Turkmenistan has replaced North Korea at 180th place.

They were at the bottom of the list of countries like Tajikistan, where most independent media have been forced to close, as well as China, Libya, Egypt, and Azerbaijan.

Some of the most powerful cases of press freedom being curtailed were recorded in Africa, where totalitarian Eritrea is worst in the class. In Tanzania, journalists could be punished after President John “Bulldozer” Magufuli came to power in 2015 warned RSF. The East African country plunged 25 places on the index, three more than Mauritania.

But the African continent also boasted significant progress. Ethiopia has climbed 40 places under Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, while the Gambia has moved 30 notches in the same direction since authoritarian Yahya Jammeh’s fall. Also in Angola, there was steady progress for press freedom.

© NTB Scanpix / #Norway Today


1 Comment on "Political leaders threaten press freedom worldwide"

  1. Joakim Haugen | 23. April 2019 at 14:48 |

    Well the political debate is moving towards a civil war-like atmosphere and the extremist leftwing media is very much to blame for this, they are also actively trying to censor media that do not repeat their talking points. Was it not just last week a politician from Venstre who called for advertisers to boycott independent media on twitter? Trump is sadly not the cause for journalists claiming to get death threats that are entirely the journalists’ own fault

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