October 21, 2019
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Global press freedom under threat, says media watchdog report

 Journalists and members of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hold signs which read 'Free to Inform', during a protest in Paris, France, Jan.19, 2019. EPA-EFE/FILE/IAN LANGSDON

Journalists and members of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) hold signs which read 'Free to Inform', during a protest in Paris, France, Jan.19, 2019. EPA-EFE/FILE/IAN LANGSDON

Paris, Apr 18 (efe-epa).- The global press freedom is regressing with more and more countries putting journalists at risk and authoritarian regimes tightening their grip on the media, according to a report released on Thursday by media advocacy group Reporters Without Borders.

The watchdog in its 2019 Press Freedom Index said the situation for free media could be considered satisfactory only in 24 percent of the nations it surveyed.

It is two points less than the previous year’s index with authoritarian regimes increasingly reinforcing their control of the media, said Reporters Without Borders — also known internationally as Reporters Sans Frontières.

RSF Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said that "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."

Norway ranked at the top first for the third time in a row. The second and third spot go to Finland and Sweden.

The Netherlands has moved out of the top three slots to position four owing to the case of two journalists living under police protection after receiving threats for investigating organized crime.

Spain has climbed two spots to be placed at 29 with no major developments with respect to the last year's list.

RSF also highlighted Ethiopia's progressions, which moves 40 places to rank 110 while Gambia moved 30 places to occupy 92nd rank.

North Korea for the first time in the last three years has not been ranked last in press freedom index. The bottom most slot has gone to Turkmenistan because of the government in the Central Asian nation has heavily clamped down on journalists.

According to the report the "United States has fallen three places in this year's Index and the media climate is now classified as 'problematic'" in the oldes.

"Never before have US journalists been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security firms for protection," it added.

India, ranked 140, faces the same problem with journalists critical of the right-wing nationalist ideology of the ruling Bharatiya Janata Party.

Brazil has also dropped three places to 105 as during the presidential campaign reporters became the target of Jair Bolsonaro's supporters both virtually and physically.

Italy comes in at 43 where the Interior Minister Matteo Salvini threatened to withdraw police protection from journalist Roberto Viano for being critical of him.

In totalitarian regimes such as Saudi Arabia (172) the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi has resulted in an increase in fear and self-censorship.

By region, the greatest degradation occurred in the Americas, where, in addition to the US and Brazil, the situation worsened significantly in Venezuela (148) and Nicaragua (114). Mexico (144) remains one of the worst countries for journalism with 10 reporters killed in 2018.

Europe also faces a somewhat similar situation with murders of journalists in Malta, Slovakia and Bulgaria along with verbal or physical attacks in Serbia and Montenegro. In Hungary, President Viktor Orban's party continues to despise the media.

A special chapter in the report has been dedicated to France with attacks on reporters especially television crew covering the Yellow Vests protests.

According to the report, hatred of the media, which is a significant aspect of the anger of the Yellow Vests in France, is the most troubling illustration of verbal attacks on reporters that have grown over the past year.

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