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Press freedom - statistics & facts

Global press freedom has worsened over the past decade, and journalists and news outlets around the world are facing restrictions linked not only to how and what they publish, but about whom they write. At the same time, news audiences themselves are faced with many obstacles and difficulties when attempting to keep themselves informed and losing trust in news media as a result. The challenges of differentiating between fake and genuine content, separating sensationalist and biased stories from basic facts, and finding themselves limited to which news sources they can access have become the norm for many news consumers, and working as a journalist is also no mean feat. Poor press freedom has serious consequences, and the latest data exemplifies the severity of the current situation.

Freedom of the press: journalists and audiences

Media freedom (or lack thereof) is a growing cause for concern in countries all around the world, and a survey asking journalists about their experiences of or opinions on press freedom revealed that over 40 percent of journalists worldwide believe that press freedom is deteriorating in their country or the country they report on. The same study found that more than 45 percent of respondents expected press freedom to decrease over the next three years.

This is bad news not only for those working in the sector but also for audiences. News consumers worldwide are already at risk of consuming and unintentionally disseminating false information, and many live under authoritarian governments which limit media freedom and censor news content. The influence exerted over the press by governments is fast becoming a global problem, with just 20 percent of the world’s population currently living in a country with total press freedom.

Press freedom around the world

The situation is particularly poor in Latin America and Africa, with the press freedom score in Latin America and the Caribbean over 40 in five countries and close to 64 in Cuba, and over 40 in a total of 20 African countries. The country with the worst press freedom score in Africa was Eritrea with 81.45, more than double that of Nigeria. By comparison, Namibia’s score was just under 20, better than in several European countries including France, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Sources have partially attributed the decline in press freedom in Europe to the rise of right-wing populism as well as concentration of media ownership, highlighting Hungary and Serbia as two countries in which governments have worked to curb critical journalism.

The issue of government intervention became more prevalent during the coronavirus pandemic, including bans on publishing COVID-19 content dubbed as misinformation. Such bans were sometimes used as a way for higher powers to spread disinformation in order to preserve a government’s reputation or reapportion blame elsewhere. Government officials and leaders in countries such as Russia and China tightened their already strict press censorship rules, and journalists in India continued to face backlash and restrictions.

Spotlight on India

Even before the pandemic, India was one of the most dangerous parts of the world to work as a journalist, and in 2020 alone the number of journalists killed in India matched that of Mexico and was the same as Somalia and Nigeria combined. Some sources attribute the decline in India’s press freedom to the gradual disintegration of the country’s democratic structure, and a survey on news audiences in India found that the majority of respondents were concerned about expressing political views online in case openly doing so could get them into trouble with the authorities.

Whilst such concerns may seem extreme or unrelatable to news audiences enjoying greater media freedom, the sad reality is that in many countries not only journalists and media workers are at risk, but also their readers. News consumers may be growing wise to content which is obviously false or sensationalist, but the gap is closing between the news industry and politics. If left unchecked and even well-established democracies continue to monitor and restrict the press, this could lead to higher numbers of independent and local news outlet closures, increased censorship and media convergence, growth in the number of reprisals against journalists, and a drop in the availability of accurate, unbiased news. Such developments would see global press freedom fall further into decline, and that particular breaking news story the world could do without.

Other interesting statistics

Press freedom - statistics & facts

Global press freedom has worsened over the past decade, and journalists and news outlets around the world are facing restrictions linked not only to how and what they publish, but about whom they write. At the same time, news audiences themselves are faced with many obstacles and difficulties when attempting to keep themselves informed and losing trust in news media as a result. The challenges of differentiating between fake and genuine content, separating sensationalist and biased stories from basic facts, and finding themselves limited to which news sources they can access have become the norm for many news consumers, and working as a journalist is also no mean feat. Poor press freedom has serious consequences, and the latest data exemplifies the severity of the current situation.

Freedom of the press: journalists and audiences

Media freedom (or lack thereof) is a growing cause for concern in countries all around the world, and a survey asking journalists about their experiences of or opinions on press freedom revealed that over 40 percent of journalists worldwide believe that press freedom is deteriorating in their country or the country they report on. The same study found that more than 45 percent of respondents expected press freedom to decrease over the next three years.

This is bad news not only for those working in the sector but also for audiences. News consumers worldwide are already at risk of consuming and unintentionally disseminating false information, and many live under authoritarian governments which limit media freedom and censor news content. The influence exerted over the press by governments is fast becoming a global problem, with just 20 percent of the world’s population currently living in a country with total press freedom.

Press freedom around the world

The situation is particularly poor in Latin America and Africa, with the press freedom score in Latin America and the Caribbean over 40 in five countries and close to 64 in Cuba, and over 40 in a total of 20 African countries. The country with the worst press freedom score in Africa was Eritrea with 81.45, more than double that of Nigeria. By comparison, Namibia’s score was just under 20, better than in several European countries including France, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Sources have partially attributed the decline in press freedom in Europe to the rise of right-wing populism as well as concentration of media ownership, highlighting Hungary and Serbia as two countries in which governments have worked to curb critical journalism.

The issue of government intervention became more prevalent during the coronavirus pandemic, including bans on publishing COVID-19 content dubbed as misinformation. Such bans were sometimes used as a way for higher powers to spread disinformation in order to preserve a government’s reputation or reapportion blame elsewhere. Government officials and leaders in countries such as Russia and China tightened their already strict press censorship rules, and journalists in India continued to face backlash and restrictions.

Spotlight on India

Even before the pandemic, India was one of the most dangerous parts of the world to work as a journalist, and in 2020 alone the number of journalists killed in India matched that of Mexico and was the same as Somalia and Nigeria combined. Some sources attribute the decline in India’s press freedom to the gradual disintegration of the country’s democratic structure, and a survey on news audiences in India found that the majority of respondents were concerned about expressing political views online in case openly doing so could get them into trouble with the authorities.

Whilst such concerns may seem extreme or unrelatable to news audiences enjoying greater media freedom, the sad reality is that in many countries not only journalists and media workers are at risk, but also their readers. News consumers may be growing wise to content which is obviously false or sensationalist, but the gap is closing between the news industry and politics. If left unchecked and even well-established democracies continue to monitor and restrict the press, this could lead to higher numbers of independent and local news outlet closures, increased censorship and media convergence, growth in the number of reprisals against journalists, and a drop in the availability of accurate, unbiased news. Such developments would see global press freedom fall further into decline, and that particular breaking news story the world could do without.

Other interesting statistics

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