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

    Russian-Backed Offensive in Syria Pushes War to Tipping Point

    As threat to Aleppo and rebel forces grows, US plan to negotiate becomes less and less appealing for Syrian government, says one military analyst

    IS Runs Timber Smuggling Business in Afghanistan, Officials Say

    Government turning blind eye to smuggling, according to tribal leaders; Afghanistan's forest cover dropped by 50 percent in three decades, experts say

    Video White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Combat Zika

    Obama administration says funding would 'support essential strategies to combat the virus' such as rapidly expanding mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research

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

    By the Numbers

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenyai
    X
    February 08, 2016 4:30 PM
    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video Sanders, Clinton Battle for Young Democratic Vote

    Despite a narrow loss to former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in last week's Iowa Democratic caucuses, Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders secured more than 80 percent of the vote among those between the ages of 18 and 29. VOA correspondent Aru Pande talks to Democrats in New Hampshire about who they are leaning towards and why in this week's primary.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.
    Video

    Video Microcephaly's Connection to Zika: Guilty Until Proven Innocent

    The Zika virus rarely causes problems for the people who get it, but it seems to be having a devastating impact on babies whose mothers are infected with Zika. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
    Video

    Video Stunning Artworks Attract Record Crowds, Thanks to Social Media

    A new exhibit at the oldest art museum in America is shattering attendance records. Thousands of visitors are lining up to see nine giant works of art that have gotten a much-deserved shot of viral marketing. The 150-year-old Smithsonian American Art Museum has never had a response quite like this. VOA's Julie Taboh reports.