Recent crackdowns on press freedoms in countries including Russia and Turkey has been blamed on Brexit by a French-based NGO.
Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 World Press Freedom Index shows an overall decline in press freedom globally – a phenomenon the groups put down to the twin influences of Brexit and the victory of Donald Trump in the 2016 U.S. Presidential Elections.
The group says both events helped to normalise attacks on the media.
The report’s authors found that press freedom violations are “less and less the prerogative of authoritarian regimes and dictatorships”, and are increasingly being witnessed in democratic societies.
2017 could see a “tipping point”, the report suggests, adding: “Attacks on the media have become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise. We have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms – especially in democracies.”
Specifically, it then goes on to single out “Donald Trump’s rise to power . . . and the Brexit campaign”, both of which, it says, “were marked by high-profile media-bashing, a highly toxic anti-media discourse that drove the world into a new era of post-truth, disinformation and fake news.”
Both Britain and the U.S. have slipped down the rankings this year by two places apiece, leaving Britain ranked 40 out of 180 countries globally, and the U.S. at 43. This puts both countries behind former Eastern bloc countries such as Latvia (#28) and African nations such as Namibia (#24).
In the top 10, northern European countries such as Norway (#1) and Sweden (#2) are joined by Costa Rica (#6) and Jamaica (#8).
Press freedom has been a particular concern in Turkey (#155), where President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government has shut down over 130 media outlets since a failed coup last July, arresting many of their highest-ranking journalists.
In March, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu denied the president’s involvement, telling Breitbart News: “Free press is definitely necessary for democracies and democratic societies.” But he added: “Press should be also, at the same time, much more responsible and they should tell the truth.”
“The rate at which democracies are approaching the tipping point is alarming for all those who understand that, if media freedom is not secure, then none of the other freedoms can be guaranteed,” said Christophe Deloire, the Journalists Without Borders’ secretary-general. “Where will this downward spiral take us?”
The organisation was co-founded by Robert Ménard, a former journalist who now serves as the Mayor of Béziers in the south of France – a position he won with the backing of the Front National, and where he has made headlines for taking a hard line on immigration. In his youth, Ménard was a Trotskyist and a member of the Socialist Party.