Subscribe

In Mideast and Europe, a bad year for press freedom, watchdog finds (+video)

Citing 'the use of fear and reprisals to silence journalists,' Reporters Without Borders says freedom of information suffered a 'dramatic decline' in 2014.

  • close
    This undated file image made from a video released by Islamic State militants purports to show the killing of journalist James Foley by the militant group. On Thursday, Reporter’s Without Borders (RSF) announced Thursday Reporter's Without Borders announced that freedom of information suffered a "dramatic decline" across the world in 2014.
    Uncredited/AP/file photo
    View Caption
  • About video ads
    View Caption
of

Last year's gruesome beheadings of Western journalists by the self-described Islamic State were among the most visceral attacks on the press in decades, making 2014 a year most reporters would soon forget – and not only those on the ground in Syria and Iraq.
 
It was a year, said Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the Paris-based media watchdog, in which freedom of information suffered a "dramatic decline" across the world. Of the 180 countries surveyed for its just-released annual World Press Freedom Index, two thirds performed worse than in 2013, RSF said Thursday. 

Government censorship was partly to blame for the downturn, RSF said. But it also pointed to the growing threat posed by non-state actors such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State, who “follow no laws and disregard basic rights in pursuit of their own ends.” 

“Motives may vary but their modus operandi is the same – the use of fear and reprisals to silence journalists and bloggers who dare to investigate them or refuse to act as their mouthpieces,” RSF said in a press release that accompanied the index. 

Widespread turmoil in the Middle East – from the spread of Islamic extremism to the civil war in Libya – solidified its reputation as the most dangerous place for journalists. But Western Europe, while top-ranked, lost the most ground as a region.

Europe has been drifting downwards in the press freedom index for years. RSF says government interference in the media, which remains the status quo in many countries across the continent, presents one of the biggest obstacles to journalists. 

What’s more is that the European Union appears to be under pressure from some member states to compromise on freedom of information, RSF reports. From Denmark to Hungary, journalists risk persecution for exposing government corruption and publishing critical views of ruling officials. 

In Italy, an increase of violence against journalists has revived concerns about the mafia and contributed to the country’s 24-place drop to 73rd.

RSF said the United States fell three places to 49th amid a “war on information” by the Obama administration, namely its crackdown on national security leaks. It also attributed the country's fall to the detention of several journalists who were “arbitrarily arrested” during their coverage of the protests in Ferguson, Mo., following the death of Michael Brown.

Meanwhile, Russia slipped two slots to 152nd place amid “draconian laws,” a squeeze on independent media, and the Kremlin’s extensive propaganda campaign against Kiev and the West over the crisis in Ukraine.

The index’s publication coincided with a glimmer of good news in the journalism world: the release of two remaining Al Jazeera journalists jailed in Egypt on charges of aiding a "terrorist organization.” They were freed on bail Thursday after spending more than 400 days in prison, but the court said the case against them was still pending.

Egypt ranked No. 158 on the list, just 21 spots from the bottom, but one spot higher than last year.

Three Scandinavian countries topped RSF's rankings: Finland, which has been in first place for many years, followed by Norway and Denmark. The three worst performers were Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea, which came in last place. China and Iran were also among the 10 lowest-ranked countries.

About these ads
Sponsored Content by LockerDome
 
 
Make a Difference
Inspired? Here are some ways to make a difference on this issue.
FREE Newsletters
Get the Monitor stories you care about delivered to your inbox.
 

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.

Loading...

Loading...

Loading...

Save for later

Save
Cancel

Saved ( of items)

This item has been saved to read later from any device.
Access saved items through your user name at the top of the page.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You reached the limit of 20 saved items.
Please visit following link to manage you saved items.

View Saved Items

OK

Failed to save

You have already saved this item.

View Saved Items

OK