Animosity towards journalists creates climate of fear

Another year of declining press freedom in both authoritarian, semi-democratic and democratic countries marks this year’s World Press Freedom Day on 3 May.

”The international community has simply not made the necessary changes needed to strengthen journalists’ safety despite more than a decade of growing intimidation and violence against journalists,” says Jesper Højberg, Executive Director of International Media Support.

New figures from Reporters without Borders’ media freedom listing shows that even in authoritarian countries where the media was severely challenged, press freedom has declined even more. Venezuela has dropped 5 places to 148 out of 180 countries. Russian too has dropped a place due to an increase in journalist arrests and censorship. In Vietnam, China and North Korea the situation for media freedom has gone from bad to worse, and these three countries languish at the bottom of the list. Only 24 percent of countries around the world in 2018 offer good and free conditions for media, two percent less than in 2017.

At the other end of the scale, Norway and Finland hold first and second place, Denmark 5th place on the global list measuring press freedom.

The Economist Intelligence Unit’s Democracy Index 2018 emphasises that despite the potential of social media and the internet to expand freedom of expression, restriction on free speech and media have in fact increased. This year’s freedom rights indicator shows that the right to press freedom has declined more than any other freedom right indicator over the last 10 years.

”Fortunately, many journalists continue to pursue their work despite the challenges they face. But if free and independent media, an essential component in democracy, is to survive, other areas of society must step up and help. It is time to think about new approaches. Protecting free and professional media is not just the task of media organisations. We collaborate with a broad range of civil society organisations, legal entities and politicians to work to change these dark statistics,” Jesper Højberg explains.

The overall theme of this year’s World Press Freedom Day is the role of media in elections. It is also an opportunity to commemorate the 84 journalists who died in the line of duty in 2018, and the 10 who have already been killed in the first few months of 2019 (RSF).