Reporters Without Borders: ‘Worrying decline’ in support for press freedom

There has been a “worrying decline” in support and respect for media autonomy and an increase in pressure from political actors, NGO Reporters Without Borders said on Friday in its latest World Press Freedom Index.

“With more than half the world’s population due to go to the polls in 2024, RWB warns that the political indicator is falling,” editorial director Anne Brocandé said in the report, published on World Press Freedom Day. The political indicator, one of five used by the NGO to gauge press freedom, has fallen by 7.6 points in a year.

The 2024 index highlights the Israel-Hamas conflict, marked by “a record number of acts of violence committed against journalists and the media since October 2023”. Palestine, ranked 157th out of 180 countries, is now one of the worst countries in the world in terms of safety for journalists.

"States and other political forces are playing a decreasing role in protecting press freedom"

Norway remains in first place overall, followed by Denmark and Sweden. The three worst-ranked countries are Eritrea, Syria and Afghanistan. Italy, where a member of the ruling parliamentary coalition is seeking to acquire the country’s second largest news agency, AGI, fell five places this year to 46th.

“States and other political forces are playing a decreasing role in protecting press freedom,” the report says. “This disempowerment sometimes goes hand in hand with more hostile actions that undermine the role of journalists, or even instrumentalise the media through campaigns of harassment or disinformation.”

'Troubling development'

Belgium has moved up 15 places in the ranking to 16th, having fallen eight places the previous year. “Despite a relatively high level of trust in the media, Belgian journalists are sometimes subjected to intimidation and violence while covering protests,” the report says. “Online threats are common and are directed, above all, at women.”

It describes the “prior censorship” of a news report about socialist party leader Conner Rousseau in 2023 as “a troubling development”.

The World Press Freedom Index is published annually and examines a state’s political, legal, economic and sociocultural context as well as the safety of journalists. 


Palestinian journalists in Deir al-Balah, central Gaza Strip, 2 May 2024 © PHOTO OMAR ASHTAWY/APAIMAGES

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