News

    Report: Only 14.5 Percent of People Have Access to Free Press

    Manager of Freedom House's freedom of expression campaign, Courtney Radsch
    Manager of Freedom House's freedom of expression campaign, Courtney Radsch

    A Washington-based human rights organization says that, overall, press freedom around the world stopped declining in 2011.  But while there are positive changes in some countries, the overall picture is not too bright.  Last year, less than 15 percent of the world's population had access to a free press.  

    The manager of Freedom House's freedom of expression campaign, Courtney Radsch, says press freedom gains in 2011 offset the declines.  

    "For the first time in eight years, the negative trend that we've seen with the declines in freedom of expression around the world was staid and we actually saw some slight uptick and improvement, in large part due to gains in the Middle East," said Radsch. "Libya, Tunisia, Egypt all went from 'not free' to 'partly free,' which was a pretty momentous change, and we also had countries like Burma that came out from under incredibly oppressive political rule."  

    Radsch made the comments at a news conference in Washington Thursday, as Freedom House released its annual press freedom report.

    Radsch said of the 197 countries and territories that were assessed in 2011 - including the newest country of South Sudan - 66 [or 33.5%] were rated 'free,' 72 [or 36.5%] were 'partly free' and 59 [or 30%] were rated 'not free.'  

    That means roughly one-third of the world's countries fill each category, but Radsch says that is not the case for the world's inhabitants.

    "But if you look at the population, it's a bit more dire," she said. "We found that only about 14.5 percent of the world's inhabitants live in a country with a free press, where they can express themselves, the press is economically independent and free from political interference, and this is, of course, incredibly disturbing."   

    German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle delivered remarks at the start of the panel.  He said it may seem that a free press is a reality in this era of the Internet and social networking websites, but that is not the case worldwide.

    "We all know in Iran and elsewhere, censorship continues to oppress the free flow of information, to distort facts and to change the perception of reality," said Westerwelle. "Not only in Belarus, journalists still are behind bars, for the mere fact that they act according to Article 19 [of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights].  As we speak, journalists have died, have been attacked and risk being killed while reporting about the bloodshed in Syria.  All that reminds us of how heavy the responsibilities of journalists are and how precious and dangerous their daily work can be."

    The Freedom House report says the media environment in the Middle East and North Africa underwent major improvements in 2011, but remained the worst-performing part of the world.  Sub-Saharan Africa suffered a marginal decline in press freedom, with some backsliding in countries that had improved in 2010, while, Zambia, Niger and Sierra Leone showed some improvements.

    According to the report, Western Europe has consistently boasted the highest level of press freedom worldwide, while press freedoms declined significantly in Central and Eastern Europe.  The Americas also experienced a worsening of press freedom in 2011.  The United States remained a strong performer, but it experienced a slight decline because of difficulties reporters faced covering the Occupy protests.  Mexico continued to be one of the world's most dangerous places for journalists.

    The Freedom House report is based on nations' legal environments, political control over the media, economic pressures on content and harassment of journalists.

    Press Freedom Challenges in the US

    Radsch made this comment about the challeges to a free press in the United States:

    "One of the challenges here in the United States is the economic consolidation and the increasingly dire economic situation for newspapers in particular, the closure of independent outlets, and we still lack a federal shield law. There are some states that have shield law, which essentially allows a journalist to protect their sources, but we've also seen attempts to create legal mechanisms and use, for example, some of the anti-terrorism laws as a way to get information from journalists. So, I think one of the things that our survey underscores, especially in the cases of Hungary and the United States, is that even consolidated democracies face challenges in protecting freedom of expression and freedom of the press. As you know, our survey looks at the entire environment, so it looks at the political, legal and economic environment because it really is about the media ecosystem that presents a free press."

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    
    by: Gary Hayward
    May 03, 2012 4:42 PM
    Under any kind of economic system, necessarily there is a price tag on everything -- including speech. The more money you have, the louder you can talk -- indeed, shout; to greater the number of people; and to people the higher up the socio-politico-economic scale. From billboards to commercial TV airtime -- heck, if you're rich enough, go set up or buy your own newspaper or radio/TV station to get your messages across!

    by: Michael Leonard Rolwey
    May 03, 2012 4:29 PM
    Wonder when we will have a Free Press again in the USA.

    by: george Ronald Adkisson
    May 03, 2012 4:16 PM
    Freedom of the press is a necessity for any civilized government that practices governing in a fair and impartial manner. Etiquette...
    Dealing with or living near the uS is another subject to be written in a book...as soon as all the legislation that could abridge the book contents is thoroughly searched and employed.

    by: W. Parkyn
    May 03, 2012 4:10 PM
    And the other 85.5% have press with right wing or left wing or their own agendas. News is no longer about providing facts but gaining market share.

    by: al Dorman
    May 03, 2012 3:51 PM
    Just so Mrs. Radsch is clear, the US does not have a free press. The MSM is tightly controlled by the PR industry. The country is free, the press is heavily redacted.
    Comments page of 2
     Previous    

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibiti
    X
    Hamada Elsaram
    February 05, 2016 4:30 PM
    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 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 Former Drug CEO Martin Shkreli Angers US Lawmakers

    A former U.S. pharmaceutical business executive has angered lawmakers by refusing to explain why he raised the price of a life-saving pill by 5,000 percent. Martin Shkreli was removed from a congressional hearing on Thursday after citing his Fifth Amendment right to stay silent. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Super Bowl TV Commercials are Super Business for Advertisers

    The Super Bowl, the championship clash between the two top teams in American Football, is the most-watched sporting event of the year, and advertisers are lining up and paying big bucks to get their commercials on the air. In fact, the TV commercials during the Super Bowl have become one of the most anticipated and popular features of the event. VOA's Brian Allen has a sneak peek of what you can expect to see when the big game goes to commercial break, and the real entertainment begins.
    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 Solar Innovation Provides Cheap, Clean Energy to Kenya Residents

    In Kenya, a company called M-Kopa Solar is providing clean energy to more than 300,000 homes across East Africa by allowing customers to "pay-as-you-go" via their cell phones. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from Kangemi, customers pay a small deposit for a solar unit and then pay less than a dollar a day to get clean energy to light up their homes or businesses.
    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.
    Video

    Video Apprenticeships Put Americans on Path Back to Work

    Trying to get more people into the U.S. workforce, the Obama administration last year announced $175 million in grants towards apprenticeship programs. VOA White House correspondent Aru Pande went inside one training center outside of Washington that has gained national recognition for helping put people on the path to employment.
    Video

    Video New Material May Reduce Concussion Effects

    As the 2016 National Football League season reaches its summit at the Super Bowl this coming Sunday (2/7), scientists are trying to learn how to more effectively protect football players from dangerous and damaging concussions. Researchers at Cardiff and Cambridge Universities say their origami-based material may solve the problem. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Saudi Arabian Women's Sports Chip Away at Stereotypes

    Saudi Arabian female athletes say that sports are on the front line of busting traditions that quash women’s voices, both locally and internationally. In their hometown of Jeddah, a group of basketball players say that by connecting sports to health issues, they are encouraging women and girls to get out of their homes and participate in public life. VOA’s Heather Murdock reports.
    Video

    Video A Year Later, Fortunes Mixed for Syrians Forging New Lives in Berlin

    In April of last year, VOA followed the progress of six young Syrian refugees -- four brothers and their two friends -- as they made their way from Libya to Italy by boat, and eventually to Germany. Reporter Henry Ridgwell caught up with the refugees again in Berlin, as they struggle to forge new lives amid the turmoil of Europe's refugee crisis.
    Video

    Video Zika Virus May be Hard to Stop

    With the Zika virus spreading rapidly, the World Health Organization Monday declared Zika a global health emergency. As Alberto Pimienta reports, for many governments and experts, the worst is yet to come.