News / USA

Report: Media Freedoms Worldwide at a 10-Year-Low

Report: Media Freedoms Worldwide at a 10-Year Lowi
X
May 01, 2014 8:40 AM
Despite an ever-expanding number of ways to put out news and information, a new report says the crackdown on media freedoms around the world has been unrelenting. 'Freedom of the Press 2014' says global press freedom has “fallen to its lowest level in over a decade,” with major setbacks in places that had been making progress only a few years ago. VOA’s Jeff Seldin has more on where the fight for a free media has fallen on hard times and on what it means for an information-hungry public.
Despite an ever-expanding number of ways to put out news and information, a new report says the crackdown on media freedoms around the world has been unrelenting. Freedom of the Press 2014 says global press freedom has “fallen to its lowest level in over a decade,” with major setbacks in places that had been making progress only a few years ago.
 
Just about everywhere, simply getting the news is getting harder. The non-profit democracy advocate Freedom House reported that media freedom is on the decline worldwide.
 
“We see attempts to control or manipulate the message, so increased use of propaganda, of trying to influence editorial content in advance.  Then what we also see is a crackdown and harassment of bloggers and people who are using these mediums to get out information,” said project director Karin Karlekar.
Media Freedom MapMedia Freedom Map
x
Media Freedom Map
Media Freedom Map

 
Karlekar said media freedoms eroded so badly in 2013 that only one out of every six people worldwide had access to a “Free” media.
 
In many areas that saw declines, she added, governments did not act alone.
 
“There were changes in media ownership at key outlets.  And then we saw changes in editorial tone, we saw pressure being placed on journalists,” said Karlerkar.
 
North Korea was ranked the worst of the 197 countries and territories rated by Freedom House.  Iran was also near the bottom despite a slight improvement during its presidential election. Syria, where journalists have been killed and kidnapped, was near the bottom as well. 
  
The Middle East as a whole saw the worst press freedom declines, led by Egypt, where the military-backed government cracked down hard, targeting journalists and putting them on trial.
Media Freedom in the Middle East and North AfricaMedia Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa
x
Media Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa
Media Freedom in the Middle East and North Africa

 
Others died covering the violence.
 
“We did have hope a few years ago because the openings created by the Arab spring had actually led to a sort of halt in this level of decline. But what we saw this year was that those openings had, you know, evaporated in many cases or there’s been significant backsliding in the Middle East,” said Karlekar.
 
 
Only two percent of the region’s population has access to a “Free” media, 14 percent to a “Partly Free” media; 84 percent live in countries where the media is “Not Free.”
 
Yet no region fared worse than Eurasia, where in Russia, journalists were jailed and beaten, some dying of their injuries. In Ukraine, journalists protested as colleagues suffered brutal assaults, some during the Euromaidan protests.
Media Freedom in EurasiaMedia Freedom in Eurasia
x
Media Freedom in Eurasia
Media Freedom in Eurasia

 
But the two former Soviet states were not alone. 
 
Journalists in Belarus again found themselves in court and under pressure, prompting calls for action from groups like the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
 
"Detentions [of journalists] have to stop now," said Dunja Mijatovic, an OSCE representative.
 
According to Freedom House, not a single person in Eurasia -- outside of Western Europe -- lives in a country with a free media; three percent of the region’s population has access to a “Partly Free” media while 97 percent live in countries rated as “Not Free.”
 
Turkey led the decline in media freedom for Europe, according to the Freedom House report, with the media coming under increased pressure after the Gezi Park protests broke out last May and with the government harassing journalists covering sensitive issues, with some top journalists losing their jobs.
Media Freedom in EuropeMedia Freedom in Europe
x
Media Freedom in Europe
Media Freedom in Europe

 
But Turkey also showed that sometimes governments can only go so far.
 
“We have seen in the case of Turkey, for example, there was a huge public outcry when Turkey tried to ban Twitter recently. So there is often a lot of public pushback to some of these more repressive measures by governments, which is a positive sign,” said Karlekar.
 
The report says, overall, 66 percent of Europeans live in countries with a “Free” media; 22 percent in countries with a “Partly Free” media; and only 12 percent in countries with a media rated as “Not Free.”
 
China was again at the forefront of the struggle for media freedom in the Asia-Pacific region. Supporters of a liberal Chinese paper at one point clashed with authorities, while others pushed for more freedom on social media, with little luck.
Media Freedom in the Asia Pacific RegionMedia Freedom in the Asia Pacific Region
x
Media Freedom in the Asia Pacific Region
Media Freedom in the Asia Pacific Region

 
“China’s always a country where there’s an extensive level of control, and when you do see these openings, such as in the micro-blogosphere in the last few years, that was an area that they really started to crack down on this past year, because they saw this is where people are sort of pushing the boundaries,” said Karlekar.
 
Vietnam also cracked down on online speech, while the pace of reform slowed in Burma, and Thailand slipped with increasing attacks on journalists.
 
Only 5 percent of the region’s population has access to a “Free” media, 47 percent have access to a “Partly Free” media, and 48 percent live in countries where the media is “not free.”
 
The struggle for media in Latin America was highlighted by developments in Venezuela, where post-election clashes between opponents and supporters of President Nicolas Maduro led to a media crackdown and new ownership for the country's 24-hour news network, Globovision.
Media Freedom in the AmericasMedia Freedom in the Americas
x
Media Freedom in the Americas
Media Freedom in the Americas

 
Journalists and their families also were intimidated and targeted, with deadly results in Mexico and Honduras.
 
On a positive note for the region, Cuba let a popular dissident blogger go on a world tour but, Freedom House said only two percent of Latin Americans live in countries with a “Free” media; 67 percent in countries rated as “Partly Free” and 31 percent in countries rated as “Not Free.”
 
In Africa, conflicts, like the coup in the Central African Republic, and violence, like the terrorist attack in Kenya at the Westgate shopping center, led to new pressures and more violence against journalists, while corruption raised concerns in Uganda, where one newspaper was briefly shut down. But Freedom House said that is only part of the story.
 
Media Freedom in Sub-Saharan AfricaMedia Freedom in Sub-Saharan Africa
x
Media Freedom in Sub-Saharan Africa
Media Freedom in Sub-Saharan Africa

“Pretty much every other region in the world showed an overall level of decline. But in Africa, the overall regional average score remained the same and there were really bright spots, I would say, in a number of countries in West Africa and then in Southern Africa,” said Karlekar.
 
Among other positives, the report points to better laws and a growing number of media outlets.
 
Overall, only 3 percent of sub-Saharan Africans have access to a “Free” media, 14 percent have access to a “Partly Free” media, and 41 percent live in countries where the media is “Not Free.”
 
Even some countries with a history of media freedom saw those freedoms erode, including the United States. Freedom House pointed to government efforts to harass journalists, especially those reporting on matters of national security.
 
The U.S. Justice Department went after a reporter at the New York Times to get his confidential sources and the government seized the phone records of journalists at the Associated Press.
 
It's a worrisome trend for the Poynter Institute's Kelly McBride, who spoke to VOA via Skype.
 
“News consumers are going to be more easily deceived and more confused about the truth.  And we’re already seeing that,” said McBride.
 
The end result, she said, is a media environment that puts the pressure on the audience to determine what is really legitimate.

Jeff Seldin

Jeff works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters covering a wide variety of subjects, from the nature of the growing terror threat in Northern Africa to China’s crackdown on Tibet and the struggle over immigration reform in the United States. You can follow Jeff on Twitter at @jseldin or on Google Plus.

You May Like

Video Afghan Refugees Complain of Harassment in Pakistan

Afghan officials and human rights organizations assert that Pakistani authorities are using deadly attack at school in Peshawar as pretext to push out Afghan refugees More

At Boston Bombing Hearing, Sides Spar Over Boat

At final pre-trial hearing, lawyers for suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, prosecutors disagree on whether vessel where he hid from police can be shown to jurors More

Iran Judiciary 'Picks' Lawyer for Detained WP Reporter

Masoud Shafii has been attempting to secure official recognition as Rezaian’s attorney, but is not allowed to see his client in prison 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.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More