A global "cycle of fear" - Norway tops Press Freedom rankings, Turkmenistan worst ranked nation

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Norway remains the nation with the highest level of Press Freedom in the world for the third consecutive time, according to the annual rankings released in April by Reporters Without Borders.

The list, published annually since 2002, assesses a number of criteria including the independence of the media and safety of journalists in the country and region, the level of self-censorship and independence, and the quality of legislative framework. Scores are compiled from an 87 part questionnaire completed by media professionals and experts, combined with data on abuses towards journalists. However, it states it does not act as an indicator on the quality of the journalism in the area.

It is the 12th time that Norway has topped the ratings list, as a nation where the “media are free and journalists are not subject to censorship or political pressure”. Finland, Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands followed the Scandinavian nation to round out the top 5 ranked countries for 2019.

Of the 180 nations rated, Turkmenistan in central Asia was adjudged the country whose press  had the lowest level of freedom, where a number of journalists have been “arrested, tortured, physically attacked or otherwise forced to stop working” and where the general population “are able to access only a highly-censored version of the internet.” It was passed in the rankings by last years lowest ranked nation North Korea. Eritrea, China and Vietnam were also ranked poorly on the list.

Following a year that saw an estimated 58 journalists killed and 251 imprisoned,  Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire warned of an increasing trend toward violence against journalists. “If the political debate slides surreptitiously or openly towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger.”

“Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of the utmost urgency for all people of good will who value the freedoms acquired in the course of history.”

Twenty-four percent of nations were found to have a ‘good situation’ (8%) or ‘satisfactory situation’ (16%), down from 26 percent of nations the previous year. Among the nations that saw a decrease in their rating was the United States, which moved from a ‘fairly good’ to  a ‘problematic’ press freedom rating, and now sits at 48th on the list, down 3 places from 2018 and well below its highest rating of 17th most free press in 2002. Reporters Without Borders cited the “increasing attack” on reporters first amendment rights and “the violent anti-press rhetoric from the highest level” contributed to the rating of the US.

In all, 136 nations were assessed as having ‘problematic’ or worse press freedom. The press of 11% of nations work in a ‘very serious situation’ regarding press freedom.

Ethiopia saw the greatest rise of any nation, up 40 places to 110th on the list following elections in April 2018 and the reported release of jailed journalists.

The Central African Republic saw the greatest drop in position, dropping 33 places to 145th on the list following the ransacking of media outlets and the murder of three Russian journalists in July of 2018.

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