Reporters Without Borders has just released their 2018 World Press Freedom Index. The results aren’t good and show that we have a lot of work to do.
Global press freedom continues to decline in 2018. Hostility towards journalists is openly encouraged by political leaders, which threatens democracies around the world.
In the U.S., tension between elected officials and the media have created such a hostile environment that the U.S. dropped from 43rd to 45th in the world, precariously close to losing its “Free” status and moving from the yellow countries to the orange countries on the map.
“The map is getting darker,” Margaux Ewen, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) North America Executive Director, said in an email.
Here’s how our current Fellows’ countries fared:
In Sudan, harassment of the news media intensified. The government methods of censorship, seizures, closures and Internet cuts dropped the country’s global score by over two points. Sudan remained in the 174th ranking, meaning there are only six countries with a lower press freedom status.
Mexico remains one of the most dangerous places to be a journalist in North America, still ranking 147th. Little has changed, and journalists still face threats of physical harm, death or disappearance in an environment of pervasive corruption.
In Ukraine, the press freedom ranking rose one spot, to 101st, after a number of reforms sought since the 2014 revolution were adopted. However, RSF cautions that these laws on media independence and media transparency are fragile. Our 2018 Ukrainian Fellow, Anna Yakutenko, raised concerns in March after her newspaper, the Kyiv Post, was purchased by a new owner.
In Macedonia, the press freedom ranking rose two spots to 109th in the world. According to RSF, the Gruevski regime’s collapse has decreased government control over the media, “but it is still too soon to be sure of the government’s intention to engineer a lasting improvement in the situation.”
In Jordan, the press freedom ranking jumped up six places to 132nd, but journalists in the nation still face a myriad of challenges — including gag orders and detentions under a vague terrorism law. Journalism became collateral damage in political disputes in 2017, with Al Jazeera’s Amman bureau shutting down after the diplomatic offensive against Qatar.
Our Fellows persevere in the face of these challenges, and the skills and knowledge they’re getting now helps. What are some positive steps we can take to combat declining press freedom?