Global Press Freedom Under ‘Unprecedented’ Attack, Report Warns
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Global Press Freedom Under ‘Unprecedented’ Attack, Report Warns

Journalists across the globe are coming under unprecedented attacks from governments, media watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has warned.

In its annual report, the RSF said authorities were becoming more aggressive towards reporters.

And it warned that public hostility towards the press was increasing as a result of fake news and disinformation.

According to the RSF, 55 journalists and four media workers were killed at work in 2022.

The report warned that the environment for journalism was “bad” in an unprecedented seven out of ten countries.

Among those that fell on the rankings was India – the world’s largest democracy – that is now placed at 161 out of 180 countries.

The report found that many journalists who were critical of the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his government were subjected to harassment by his supporters.

In February 2023, the BBC’s Delhi offices were raided by income tax officials one week after the broadcaster aired a documentary in the UK critical of Mr Modi.

And the report criticised the concentration of media ownership in the country, which it said was broadly controlled by allies of Mr Modi, creating a “politically partisan” media landscape.

The state of press freedom was found to be “very serious” in an unprecedented 31 different countries; including Turkey, Russia, China, Iran and North Korea.

Turkey fell to 165th place in the rankings, with the report noting that many journalists have been persecuted in the lead-up to elections, slated to take place on 14 May.

The US and the UK also fell slightly, with the RSF criticising the arrest of British reporters covering protests, a lack of media ownership pluralism and “legislative proposals with worrying implications for journalism”.

In addition to challenges from authorities, the report also said the digital landscape was worsening conditions for journalists.

“The unprecedented ability to tamper with content is being used to undermine those who embody quality journalism and weaken journalism itself,” it warned.

It said artificial intelligence’s ability to create what appears like journalism, meant the “principles of rigour and reliability” were easily bypassed.

The RSF also referenced Elon Musk’s recent decision to purchase Twitter, and said his changes to the platform – including paid for verification – was like “quicksand” for journalism.

European countries led the rankings, with East Timor being the only country outside the EU placing in the top 10.

Nordic countries performed well in the rankings, with Norway coming first and receiving praise for it “vibrant” and “robust” media landscape. It was followed by Denmark in third, Sweden in fourth and Finland in fifth.

Ireland, the Netherlands, Lithuania, Estonia and Portugal rounded out the top 10.

Speaking ahead of World Press Freedom Day, the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres warned that “all our freedom depends on press freedom”.

Similarly to the RSF, he said disinformation threatened the truth as it blurred “the lines between fact and fiction, between science and conspiracy”.

Unesco awarded the 2023 World Press Freedom Prize to three Iranian women – two journalists and a human rights activist – who have been imprisoned.

Source : BBC