Media freedom is in a “very serious situation” in a record number of countries, Reporters Without Borders has declared
Journalists are facing threats and hostility in more countries than ever before, according to this year’s World Press Freedom Index. However, the report condemns non-Western governments for clamping down on press freedom, while ignoring violations in the EU and North America.
Published every year by Reporters Without Borders, the World Press Freedom Index analyzes legal and physical threats to journalists to rank the level of press freedom in 180 countries.
This year’s index describes the situation in 31 countries as “very serious,” up from 28 last year. Only in eight countries is the situation described as “good,” a number unchanged since last year.
Norway took first place in the 2023 index for the seventh year in a row, followed by Ireland in second and Denmark in third. Nine of the top ten countries are EU states, while a number of prominent murders and the ongoing closure of local news outlets brought the US down from 42nd place to 45th. Canada took 15th place, while the UK came in 26th.
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The major non-Western powers – Russia, China, and India – all placed below 160th, as did Iran, Saudi Arabia, and much of the Middle East and Asia. However, while Reporters Without Borders placed Russia in 164th place for censoring stories about its military and restricting foreign media outlets, it elevated Ukraine from 106th place last year to 79th this year – higher than Greece and Serbia and five places behind Hungary.
The index describes Ukraine as “the front line of resistance against the expansion of the Kremlin’s propaganda system,” and makes no mention of Kiev’s outright banning of opposition media, which was condemned last year by the European Federation of Journalists. Ukrainian President Vladimir Zelensky, who banned Russian news networks in 2021, enacted a law in December giving his government the power to fine, censor, or block all broadcast, print, or online media outlets in Ukraine.
The European Union’s blanket ban on Russian outlets like RT and Sputnik is also omitted from the organization’s report. Further restrictions on Russian media in individual European countries are also omitted. For example, Estonia placed eighth on the list, and was criticized only for the online “cyberbullying of journalists,” and not for blocking access to 53 websites used by the country’s sizable Russian minority to watch banned Russian TV channels.