Press freedom suffers 'drastic decline' worldwide: Report

Wednesday, February 18, 2015
[PHOTO: The Unnamed/Flickr/CC BY-SA 2.0
Washington: Press freedom suffered a "drastic decline" worldwide last year in part because of extremist groups such as Islamic State and Boko Haram, the watchdog group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in its annual evaluation report. 

According to the 2015 World Press Freedom Index (WPFI) from RSF, which analyzed the ongoing risks journalists face throughout the world, including threats of violence and assaults.

Three Scandinavian countries are in the top of the list as Finland was positioned on rank one followed by Norway and Denmark. At the other end of the scale, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea were the worst performers securing the last places in the index. 

Though in WPFI 2015, India has shown improvement ranking 136 out of 180 nations worldwide but its overall score declined from 40.34 to 40.49. In 2014, India stood at 140th position in last year Index release.

Annual World Press Freedom Index (WPFI) produced by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) highlights India’s “abuse score,” which reflects the intensity of violent harassment faced by journalists was 59.58, which is higher than Sri Lanka’s score of 40.6 but below Pakistan’s score of 64.91 and China’s score of 89.64.

Media freedom in country like Russia, Iran and China also witnessed sharp drop ranking respectively at 152, 173 and 176 place.

Declines in World Press Freedom Index 2015

- The United States was placed at 49th position by falling down by 3 places. In 2014, the New York Times journalist James Risen came under US government pressure to reveal his sources. 
- In Asia, East Timor witnessed drop by 26 places to 103rd position. In Sub-Saharan Africa, Congo fell 25 places to achieve 107th rank in the index. 
- Western Europe saw numerous countries in decline. Italy was ranked at 73rd position, it fell 24 places. Iceland was down by 13 places to get 21st rank in the index by paying the price of worsening relations between politicians and media.  
- Pressure on independent media continued to intensify in Russia which fell by 4 places to be placed at 152nd rank.

Rise in World Press Freedom Index 2015

- Among American nations, Mexico managed to pull itself up four places, it got 148th rank. 
- In Europe, Georgia continued to rise for the third year by securing 69th position, up by 15 places.
- Nepal at 105th position was up by 15 places as the country witnessed drop in violence by the security forces against journalists, especially at demonstrations. 
-A cause for satisfaction was Brazil which rose by 12 places to get 99th rank in the index.

The Data

RSF compiles its yearly index based on its own observations throughout the world, as well as an 87-question survey sent to its partner organizations, network of correspondents, researchers, jurists, and human rights defenders. The France-based NGO uses the data to create a map of global press freedom: white indicates the best situations, while red and black mark the worst.

RSF has used seven criteria to form its index since 2013: pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, infrastructure, and abuses.

Global Threats

As per WPFI in 2014, 13 journalists were killed worldwide, while 164 were arrested. In addition, 13 media assistants and 178 “netizens” were also imprisoned.

In general, Europe maintains its position as the continent with the freest press, followed by the Americas. RSF, however, notes that threats to journalists are on the rise on every continent, especially in Africa and the Middle East.

Overall RSF said there was a “sharp decline in freedom of information [and] two-thirds of 180 countries performed less well… and press freedom declined in all continents in 2014.”

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