Press freedom under attack worldwide, report finds

Press freedom under attack worldwide, report finds

Map showing various degrees of press freedom around the world (Image via Reporters Without Borders)

WASHINGTON — If President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim actually meet at their anticipated summit, it is unlikely that press freedom will be on their agenda. Yet it is one area where they may be surprised at how much they have in common — a shared antipathy for the media.

North Korea ranks the lowest in press freedom among the nations of the world — number 180 — according to a just-released survey by Reporters Without Borders.

That same survey showed press freedom in the United States dropping to 45th in the world.

“The first year of President Donald J. Trump’s presidency has fostered further decline in journalists’ right to report,” the report said. “He has declared the press an enemy of the American people in a series of verbal attacks toward journalists, attempted to block White House access to multiple media outlets, and routinely uses the term fake news in retaliation for critical reporting.”

The report called Trump a “media-bashing enthusiast” and noted that the term “enemies of the people” was once used by Joseph Stalin, the Soviet dictator.

In the 2018 report, Norway is again in the top spot and once again is followed by Sweden. Finland fell to fourth place, with the Netherlands taking spot number three.

The rest of the best nations for press freedom are, in order, Switzerland, Jamaica, Belgium, New Zealand, Denmark and Costa Rica.

At the bottom, just ahead of North Korea, were Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Syria, China, Vietnam, Sudan, Djibouti (in Africa), Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Laos and Saudi Arabia.

Canada was 18 and Mexico, 147. U.S. allies against ISIS include Germany, 15; France, 33; United Kingdom, 40, and Iraq, 160. South Korea was 43.

However, even where press freedom is best, such as Europe, it is slipping, according to the report. That slide is occurring across the world, and precipitously in some parts, the report said. Four of this year’s five biggest falls in the Index are those of European countries, the report said.

“There have never been so many countries that are colored black on the press freedom map,” according to the report. Black is the map color used to designate countries where press freedom is “very bad.”

“More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion,” the report said. “Hostility towards the media from political leaders is no longer limited to authoritarian countries such as Turkey (down two at 157th) and Egypt (161st), where media-phobia is now so pronounced that journalists are routinely accused of terrorism and all those who don’t offer loyalty are arbitrarily imprisoned.”

Even worse, the line separating verbal violence from physical violence is dissolving all over the world, the report warned.

“The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies,” RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said. “Political leaders who fuel loathing for reporters bear heavy responsibility because they undermine the concept of public debate based on facts instead of propaganda. To dispute the legitimacy of journalism today is to play with extremely dangerous political fire.”

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