Reporters Without Borders said Wednesday that globally “media freedom has never been so threatened,” as it released its annual press freedom index.
The media rights group pointed in particular to democratic countries as places where press freedoms declined during the past year.
“In sickening statements, Draconian laws, conflicts of interest, and even the use of physical violence, democratic governments are trampling on a freedom that should, in principle, be one of their leading performance indicators.”
The report said the reductions in press freedoms are most pronounced in places where “the authoritarian strongman model has triumphed,” such as Poland, Hungary and Turkey.
“The rate at which democracies are approaching the tipping point is alarming for all those who understand that, if media freedom is not secure, then none of the other freedoms can be guaranteed,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said.
Most countries show decline
Overall, 62 percent of countries measured showed a decline in press freedom in the 2017 index.
Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands ranked as the countries with the highest degree of freedom for journalists.
North Korea ranked last, with Reporters Without Borders saying the country “continues to keep its population in ignorance and terror.Also at the bottom of the list, just ahead of North Korea, were Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Syria and China.
Those countries that most improved their scores since the 2016 index were Laos, Pakistan, Sweden, Burma and the Philippines.The biggest decliners were Saudi Arabia, Ethiopia, Maldives and Uzbekistan.
Trump rhetoric criticized
The report faulted U.S. President Donald Trump and the rhetoric he used since launching his campaign for office, which has frequently targeted media organizations and declaring their stories “fake.”
“The hate speech used by the new boss in the White House and his accusations of lying also helped to disinhibit attacks on the media almost everywhere in the world, including in democratic countries.”
The United States ranked 43rd on the index, down two spots from 2016.Britain, which decided in a referendum last year to leave the European Union, ranked 40th.
“Donald Trump’s rise to power in the United States and the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom were marked by high-profile media bashing, a highly toxic anti-media discourse that drove the world into a new era of post-truth, disinformation, and fake news.”
The report said the Middle East and North Africa region continues to be the most dangerous for journalists to work, with Eastern Europe and Central Asia close behind.