On Thursday, Freedom House released “Freedom of the Press 2014,” a report on the state of global press freedoms. Political tension and unrest in a number of countries contributed to the lowest global press freedom in 10 years, according to a press release. In the U.S., restrictions on national security reporting also caused a loss of some press freedoms.
“We see declines in media freedom on a global level, driven by governments’ efforts to control the message and punish the messenger,” said Karin Karlekar, project director of the report. “In every region of the world last year, we found both governments and private actors attacking reporters, blocking their physical access to newsworthy events, censoring content, and ordering politically motivated firings of journalists.”
“In 2013 we saw more cases of states targeting foreign reporters and media outlets,” Karlekar added. “Russian and Chinese authorities declined to renew or threatened to withhold visas for prominent foreign correspondents, but the new Egyptian government went a step further by detaining a number of Al-Jazeera staff on charges of supporting terrorism.”
The report looked at press freedoms in 197 countries during 2013. Only one third earned a rating of “Free.” According to Freedom House, they reach their rankings by analyzing events in each country throughout the year. They reach the rankings using 23 questions “that seek to capture the varied ways in which pressure can be placed on the flow of independent information and the ability of print, broadcast, and internet-based news outlets to operate freely and without fear of repercussions.”
Their research also considers laws and regulations, political control or influence, public access to information and killings and arrests of journalists. Countries that have a score of between 0 and 30 get the “Free” ranking.
The Netherlands, Norway and Sweden tied for the top spot for countries with press freedoms. The United States ranked 30th, in a tie with Micronesia and Austria. The United Kingdom ranked 36. Ukraine, where there have been recent attacks on journalists in the east, ranked 130th with a rating of “Not Free.” In the bottom spot, at 197, sits North Korea.
Reporters Without Borders 2014 Press Freedom Index, released earlier this year, reflects similar findings. Finland holds the top spot in that ranking, the U.S. dropped down to 46 and at the bottom of that 180-country list sits Eritrea.
Like the Press Freedom Index, Freedom House notes that the U.S. lost press freedoms during the last year “due primarily to attempts by the government
to inhibit reporting on national security issues.”