A new report from the group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) finds that in 2014 freedom of the press saw a “dramatic decline” as wars, terrorism, high-handed security measures, and the rise of radical governing parties have grown all across the globe.
The group published its latest World Press Freedom Index and reported that two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed performed worse in 2014 over the group’s findings from 2013.
“Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents,” the group said in a statement.
Violence and internal insurgencies in such countries as Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine had a huge impact on press freedom, the group claimed. “The media, used for propaganda purposes or starved of information, became strategic targets and were attacked, or even silenced,” RSF continued.
RSF reported that in many parts of the world extremists use “fear and reprisals to silence journalists and bloggers” in order to control the news.
The group also criticized efforts to silence religious critics.
“The criminalization of blasphemy endangers freedom of information in around half of the world’s countries,” RSF said, adding that extremist religious groups “sometimes take it upon themselves to remind journalists and bloggers what they may or may not say.”
The pressure on journalists has created what RSF calls “information black holes,” where news is both hard to come by and to verify, giving extremists and violent actors, whether government sponsored or that of radical insurgents, the ability to better hide their actions.
Even the US dropped from 2013’s index ranking.
The United States ranked 49, three spots lower than in the previous report, in part because of what RSF said was the US government’s “war on information” against WikiLeaks and others.
In South America, Venezuela stood out with a 20-notch fall to a ranking of 137 due to the National Bolivarian Guard opening fire on clearly identified journalists during demonstrations.
Libya dropped 17 places to 154 because of the national chaos that has seen seven journalists murdered and 37 kidnapped.
Russia slipped to the 152nd spot after introducing “another string of draconian laws,” website blocking and the extinction of independent media.
Press freedom also slipped in Europe, with Italy and Iceland both dropping down in the ranks. France gained one spot, while the top three spots were once again awarded to Finland, Norway, and Denmark in that order.
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