Report: Global Media Freedom Suffers Sharp Decline

Media freedom has suffered a sharp decline globally with increasing intimidation of journalists, including verbal and physical attacks, a new report has found.

ARTICLE 19’s XPA metric found that a global decline in freedom expression was being driven by attacks on media freedom which was cited as the area which had suffered the greatest rate of decline in 2017.    

The report found that in 2017:

  • 78 journalists and 312 rights defenders were killed; 
  • 326 journalists were imprisoned; 194 of these were on anti-state charges; 
  • 97 per cent of jailed journalists are local reporters;
  • On average, 90 per cent of physical crimes against journalists go unpunished; 
  • Media freedom declined in 48 countries between 2014-2017. 

The report chimes with Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index which found that  a growing animosity towards journalists across the globe and a hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders.

The UK was ranked 40th in the list, its worst ever position lower than any other western European nation apart from Italy, behind countries such as South Africa, Lithuania and Trinidad & Tobago.  It also represents a staggering decline for the UK of 18 places since the Index was first published in 2002.

ARTICLE 19’s report found that the decline in global freedom of expression was mirrored by rise in “strongman politics,” Article 19 said, with countries such as the US, which have strong freedom of expression protections, being negatively affected.

Countries where media freedom declined in 2017, included democracies such as Poland, India and the US. In Poland, independent journalists and media outlets faced intimidation and state media was moved under government control.

In India, one of the biggest decliners for media freedom between 2014-17, seven journalists were killed last year. Journalists have been subjected to online smear campaigns and threats by Hindu nationalists, contributing to a climate of self-censorship.