30 years ago, the United Nations declared the 3rd May World Press Freedom Day, marking the day as an annual reminder of the importance of the freedom of the press. On May 2nd, the United Nations Secretary General delivered a statement at the UN Headquarters in New York urging nations to better protect the press in their countries.
Guterres’ plea comes as 67 media workers were killed in 2022, according to the World Press Freedom Index. The Reporters without Borders report issued a stark warning with statistics showing an increase in deaths of members of the media of nearly 50% year-on-year.
The annual report of the World Press Freedom Index concluded that a record number of countries are deemed bad for the press, or some 7 out of 10 worldwide, with a total tally of 31 countries. The main criteria are safety and censorship but also includes editorial interference by owners, advertisers, politicians and conflicts of interest are “backsliding” according to France 24. The US however has not scored as well in recent years due to intimidation of the press under the Trump administration.
The global population were also surveyed, and results showed the vast majority believe press freedoms are regressing compared to five years ago.
The report also highlighted the advent of disinformation, often considered a threat to security, from national to global, as one of the emerging threats the world faces. As integrity of information comes under scrutiny with everything from pay walls to social media or content creators, and the development of artificial intelligence in the production of fake news ravages cyberspace, the most imminent threats to press freedoms are not those deployed in the name of progress.
While there were a number of wars, which typically increases risks to journalists, and the vast majority of deaths in 2022 occurred in only three countries, Mexico, in the top 3, is not a country at war and yet was yet again, notoriously one of the most violent against journalists. West African countries have also slipped down the ranking, notably in decline since the military coups in Mali and Burkina Faso. Countries like Senegal fell 91 places and Cameroon is also now deemed less secure for the press.
The number of journalists jailed was reported upon, with some famous cases such as the foreign correspondent in Russia last month, but also many countries known as mass press incarcerators; 106 journalists were imprisoned in China, 55 in Iran, and continued incarcerations in other notoriously difficult countries for members of the press such as Turkey or Myanmar.
The World Press Index report ranked countries according to press freedoms with the top 5 best countries being mostly Scandinavian. Norway is in pole position, followed by Ireland, Denmark in 3rd, Sweden 4th and Finland 5th. The five countries deemed to have the least freedom of press, from worst upwards are North Korea at 180th, China, Vietnam, Iran, Turkmenistan, and Syria at 175th.