UK Drops In The World Press Freedom Index

The UK has dropped two places to 35th out of 180 countries in the Reporters Without Borders’ 2020 World Press Freedom Index.

The RSF noted that a number of domestic concerns undermined the UK’s international leadership role and resulted in the decline in ranking in the 2020 Index, despite the UK co-hosting the Global Conference for Media Freedom and co-founding the Media Freedom Coalition in 2019.

Prior to 2020’s ranking, the UK had risen seven places in the 2019 Index, bringing it to 33rd after spending the previous two years ranked at 40th.

The murder of journalist Lyra McKee in Northern Ireland, in 2019 marked a low point for UK press freedom; a journalist had not been killed in the line of duty in the UK since the assassination of Martin O’Hagan in 2001. The RSF highlighted that journalists who cover organised crime and paramilitary activity in Northern Ireland continued to face serious threats to their safety.

Rebecca Vincent, RSF UK bureau director, said:With coronavirus and other converging crises presenting unprecedented threats to press freedom globally, it is more important than ever for democratic states to lead by example.

“The UK should be performing better on the World Press Freedom Index, and must address these domestic concerns as a matter of priority. Concrete steps should be taken to ensure the safety of journalists in the wake of Lyra McKee’s murder.”

Despite former Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt stating in 2019 that the Government would make media freedom a top priority for the coming year, no apparent progress has been made establishing a National Committee for the Safety of Journalists and a National Action Plan on Safety of Journalists, nor the setting up of a Review on the Impact Of Legislation On Press Freedom.

The RSF also noted concern over problematic provisions of counter-terrorism and crime legislation adopted in 2019.