A free press is seen as one of the key measures of a healthy democratic society.
But from attacks on journalists by anti-government protesters in France, to outlets being referred to as “fake news”, the media environment in 2019 is becoming increasingly hostile.
On World Press Freedom Day – which celebrates the principles of a free press and this year looks at journalism’s role in democracy and elections – here are six facts about what reporters are facing around the world:
1. 34 journalists were murdered worldwide last year
The number killed in retaliation for their work nearly doubled in 2019 from the previous year, according to figures from the Committee to Protect Journalists. In total, 1,340 people have died doing the job since 1992 – when the records began – and 860 of those have been murdered.
2. The number of reporters in jail remains at record highs
Last year was the third in a row where more than 250 journalists were jailed for their work. More than half of those were imprisoned in Turkey, China and Egypt, according to the committee.
3. Less than a quarter of the world is regarded as a good place for the media
The 2019 World Press Freedom Index from Reporters Without Borders (RSF) says the state of journalism in more than three-quarters of the 180 countries it researched is either problematic, difficult or very serious. Only 24% of countries are classified as good or fairly good – a slight reduction on last year’s figure.
4. Journalists are facing unprecedented levels of fear and danger
According to RSF, there are a falling number of countries in which the media is able to work in safety without fear or facing violence. And this is true even in supposedly safer regions, such as the US – which was classified as problematic for the first time this year.
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5. Scandinavia is home to the most free press
Norway, Finland and Sweden make up the top three countries in the index, while Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan occupy the bottom three places.
6. In some countries, things are looking up
In Africa, the rankings of Ethiopia – up 40 places at 110th – and Gambia – up 30 to 92nd – have improved considerably from last year’s index. And more than 100 countries have now adopted freedom of information laws, allowing the public access to knowledge held by government and political institutions, unless there are legitimate reasons for withholding it.