Press freedom around the world at a glance (Photo: Reports Without Border)
Reporters Without Borders, a non-profit based in France, today released its 2014 World Press Freedom Index, designed to draw attention to countries that impose restrictions on freedom of information and celebrate those that have improved.
Once again, European countries dominated the list, with the top five unchanged from last year: Finland, Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg and Andorra. Canada climbed up two spots, from 20 to 18, although that's only a partial recovery from 2012, when we had been ranked as high as 10th (alongside Denmark. And at the bottom of the list are three countries where Reporters Without Borders says "freedom of information is non-existent": Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.
Several factors go into determining a country's position, including violence or intimidation against journalists and government censorship, transparency and interference in editorial content. The concentration of media ownership and discrimination in access to journalism training are also considered in the tally. To collect all this data, Reporters Without Borders works with 18 freedom of expression NGOs, as well as journalists, researchers and human rights activists around the world.
The United States suffered one of the biggest falls in the ranking, dropping 13 spots to land in 46th due in part to efforts to track down and prosecute whistleblowers and leaks. "The trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest," RWB writes in a report accompanying the ranking. Guatemala fell 29 places in the ranking to 125 after the number of physical attacks on journalists doubled, including four murders. And the Central African Republic fell 34 spots to 109 amid destabilizing sectarian violence.
Not all the news in the report was bad. Reporters Without Borders lauded legislative efforts to protect the freedom of investigative reporting in South Africa, which rose 11 spots to 42, and noted that violence against journalists and direct censorship are on the wane in Panama (up 25 to 87), Bolivia (up 16 to 94) and Ecuador (up 25 to tie Bolivia at 94).
In last year's ranking, Canada fell from 10 to 20 due to "obstruction of journalists during the so-called 'Maple Spring' student movement and to continuing threats to the confidentiality of journalists' sources and Internet users' personal data."
Here are the top 20 counties in this year's index
- New Zealand
- Czech Republic
And the bottom 20:
- Saudi Arabia
- Sri Lanka
- Equatorial Guinea
- Lao People's Democratic Republic
- Islamic Republic of Iran
- Syrian Arab Republic
- Democratic People's Republic of Korea