News / Africa

Global Press Freedom at Lowest Level in More Than Decade

Journalists and activists participate in a rally calling for press freedom in central Ankara, Turkey, March 19, 2011 (file photo)
Journalists and activists participate in a rally calling for press freedom in central Ankara, Turkey, March 19, 2011 (file photo)

Freedom House, a U.S.-based group that monitors human rights around the world says the number of people with access to free and independent media has declined to its lowest level in more than a decade.  In its newly released annual survey, the group says several key countries saw significant declines last year and that only one-in-six people live in countries with a press designated as free.  

In this year's annual index of global media freedom of 196 countries and territories, Freedom House says it rated 68 as "free" and the remaining two thirds as "partly free" or "not free."

Freedom House Senior Editor Karin Karlekar says this is roughly an even breakdown, but a closer look reveals a different picture. "If you look at the population statistics, they are much bleaker, only 15 percent of the world's inhabitants or one in six live in countries with a free press, while 42 percent have a partly free press and 43 percent, the majority, are in a not-free press," she said.

Karlekar made her remarks at a conference at the Newseum - a journalism history museum in Washington D.C. - to mark World Press Freedom Day.  She says looking back at the three decades Freedom House has been monitoring global media freedoms, there have been considerable improvements, as well as what she says are recent worrying declines. "In terms of overall trends, what we see is, as overt control over and censorship of the print and the broadcast media have lessened, other methods of influence have been applied.  And this is from legal and regulatory harassment to intimidation and outright physical attacks on journalists," she said.

Freedom House press status
The status of press freedom around the world - Courtesy of Freedom House

Freedom House says Egypt, Honduras, Hungary, Mexico, South Korea, Thailand, and Ukraine were among those countries that saw significant declines.

Violence in Mexico brought on by problems with drug trafficking and an ongoing drug war, the group says, led to a dramatic increase in attacks on journalists, rising levels of self-censorship and impunity.

The group says a severe crackdown prior to Egypt’s parliamentary elections last November saw the country’s rating slip to not free.  Smaller setbacks were also seen in Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Morocco and Yemen.

Karlekar says that recent events in the Middle East and North Africa could help reverse the global trend and bring more positive upward movement in the next survey. "We are hoping that next year, there will be more positive movement.  That the movements in the Middle East and the revolutions of early 2011 give us hope that perhaps this trend of decline that we have seen in the last eight years may be coming to an end," she said.

The survey also notes that repressive governments have stepped up efforts to control new means of communication, such as satellite television, the Internet and mobile telephones.

The report says satellite television was blocked in Egypt and Iran.  The social networking website Facebook was briefly blocked in Pakistan in 2010 and remained unavailable in China, Syria and Vietnam last year.

South Korea was moved from free to partly free and Thailand slipped from partly free to not free following an increase in efforts in both countries to censor online content.

U.N.  investigator for freedom of opinion and expression Frank LaRue says many politicians are panicking because  they believe the Internet poses a threat as a multi-active, interactive form of communication. "We find that censorship is growing again.  Sometimes with old forms of criminalizing.  The crime of defamation, which has been in the legislature of many countries, but dormant for a long time, is now being revived.  South Korea was put under a new status in the report of Freedom House precisely because the Internet is being sanctioned, bloggers are being criticized," he said.

Freedom House says additional pressure on the media in politically turbulent Thailand led to its decline.

Karlekar says that for the most part, levels of Internet freedom and press freedom are roughly the same among good and bad performers. "In countries like China and Iran, which are very repressive, they have repressive media environments and also Internet and digital media environments.  What we see, however,  in the [ranking of countries and territories] is that there are significant gaps between Internet and press freedom, where the Internet provides a relatively free space in otherwise closed media environments," he said.

Karlekar says that while there are increasing attempts to restrict and limit the influence of the Internet, the medium is contributing to the opening up of intellectual freedoms and a source of potential hope for change.

You May Like

Lion Cecil's Killing Sparks 'Canned Hunting' Debate in S. Africa

Conservationists believe incident, which triggered worldwide outrage, will reshape debate about practice in which hunters are allowed to target animals bred for hunting More

Environmentalists Issue Warning on Mekong Biodiversity

Scientists say decades of economic development, hydropower-dam construction, lax law enforcement and trafficking have taken their toll More

US Urges Taliban to Stay With Afghan Peace Talks

Top US Afghan diplomat also meets with Pakistani, Afghan officials following news of Mullah Omar's death More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missionsi
|| 0:00:00
...    
🔇
X
George Putic
July 30, 2015 8:59 PM
Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.

VOA Blogs