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21 Apr, 2016

Governments, religious ideologies, oligarchs all now a threat – World Press Freedom Index 2016

The 2016 edition of the World Press Freedom Index, which Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published on 20 April, 2016, shows that there has been a deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels.

Ever since the 2013 Index, RSF has been calculating indicators of the overall level of media freedom violations in each of the world’s regions and worldwide. The higher the figure, the worse the situation.

The global indicator decline since 2013 is 13.6%. The global indicator has gone from 3719 points last year to 3857 points this year, a 3.71% deterioration. The decline since 2013 is 13.6%.

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The many reasons for this decline in freedom of information include the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of governments in countries such as Turkey and Egypt, tighter government control of state-owned media, even in some European countries such as Poland, and security situations that have become more and more fraught, in Libya and Burundi, for example, or that are completely disastrous, as in Yemen.

The survival of independent news coverage is becoming increasingly precarious in both the state and privately-owned media because of the threat from ideologies, especially religious ideologies, that are hostile to media freedom, and from large-scale propaganda machines. Throughout the world, “oligarchs” are buying up media outlets and are exercising pressure that compounds the pressure already coming from governments.

All of the Index’s indicators show a decline from 2013 to 2016. This is especially the case for infrastructure. Some governments do not hesitate to suspend access to the Internet or even to destroy the premises, broadcast equipment or printing presses of media outlets they dislike. The infrastructure indicator fell 16% from 2013 to 2016.

The legislative framework has registered an equally marked decline. Many laws have been adopted penalizing journalists on such spurious charges as “insulting the President,” “blasphemy” or “supporting terrorism.” Growing self-censorship is the knock-on effect of this alarming situation. The “media environment and self-censorship” indicator has fallen by more than 10% from 2013 to 2016.

Every continent has seen its score decline. The Americas have plunged 20.5%, above all as a result of the impact of physical attacks and murders targeting journalists in Mexico and Central America. Europe and the Balkans declined 6.5%, above all because of the growing influence of extremist movements and ultraconservative governments.

The Central Asia/Eastern Europe region’s already bad score deteriorated by 5% as a result of the increasingly glacial environment for media freedom and free speech in countries with authoritarian regimes.

Published by Reporters Without Borders annually since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index measures the level of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries using the following criteria – pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative environment, transparency, infrastructure, and abuses.

2016 World Press Freedom Index ­– leaders paranoid about journalists

Most of the movement in the World Press Freedom Index unveiled on April 20, 2016 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) is indicative of a climate of fear and tension combined with increasing control over newsrooms by governments and private-sector interests.

Africa’s journalists, victims of terrorism, armed conflict and election crises

Media freedom violations seem to be taking a growing toll on journalists in Africa. The biggest deterioration was seen in South Sudan (140th), which fell 15 places in the Index. In this country torn by civil war since 2013, journalists fell victim to the conflict’s violence and a campaign of intimidation by the authorities.

Reporting constrained by terror in the Middle East and North Africa

The Middle East and North Africa continued to be one of the world’s most difficult and dangerous regions for journalists, who in many places were trapped between rival factions, belligerents, radical groups and governments that behave in an extreme fashion and are often adept at their own terror strategies.

Journalism under the gun and club in the Americas

Media freedom declined in the Americas in 2015 because of mounting political tension in many countries fuelled by economic recession, uncertainty about the future and weakening solidarity between communities.

A nice postcard from the Pacific, but not Asia

The media freedom situation worsened significantly or stagnated in most of the Asia-Pacific region. The decline affected eastern Asia’s democracies, previously regarded as regional models.

Another turn of the screw in the post-Soviet region

Media freedom has declined steadily in the post-Soviet states. Nearly two thirds of the region’s countries are ranked around 150th or lower in the Index and their scores keep on falling.

Europe threatened by demons, its own and the world’s

The past year seems to have confirmed the trend seen in the 2015 Index – progressive erosion of the European model. Counter-espionage and counter-terrorist measures were misused. Laws were passed allowing mass surveillance. Conflicts of interest increased. Authorities tightened their grip on state media and sometimes privately-owned media as well. All in all, the continent that respects media freedom most seemed to be on a downhill course.

Click here for country rankings and further details: https://rsf.org/en/world-press-freedom-index