The 2018 World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters without Borders (Reporters sans Frontiéres, RSF), reflects the growing animosity towards journalists. Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies, the index summed up in a press release.
The Index annually evaluates the level of press freedom in 180 countries, and most recently, it has found that the atmosphere of hatred is ever more and more palpable, with animosity being demonstrated by political leaders no longer only in authoritarian countries like Turkey and Egypt.
For example the United States has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters “enemies of the people,” the term once used by Joseph Stalin, RSF comments.
Regional indicators worsening, two CEE countries pinpointed
The line separating verbal violence from physical violence is disappearing, the international NGO writes, continuing that verbal violence from politicians against the media is also on the rise in Europe, even though it is the region that respects press freedom the most. In the Czech Republic (down 11 at 34th), President Miloš Zeman turned up at a press conference with a fake Kalashnikov inscribed with the words “for journalists”.
In Slovakia, (down 10 at 27th), then Prime Minister Robert Fico called journalists “filthy anti-Slovak prostitutes” and “idiotic hyenas”, RSF point out, adding that Slovak reporter Ján Kuciak was shot dead in his home in February 2018, just four months after another European journalist, Daphne Caruana Galizia, was killed by a targeted car-bombing in Malta (down 18 at 65th).
In Europe where press freedom is the biggest, the regional indicator has worsened the most this year, the RSF regional report notes. Four of this year’s five biggest drops in the Index are those of European countries: Malta (down 18 at 65th), the Czech Republic (down 11 at 34th), Serbia (down 10 at 76th) and Slovakia (down 10 at 27th).
The European model’s slow erosion is continuing, and besides the two murders, threats to investigative reporters and unprecedented verbal attacks on the media have contributed, the regional report points out. Even the countries at the top of the Index are affected by this alarming climate. Two murders in the space of five months have capped a worrying decline for the continent’s democracies.
What is the World Press Freedom Index?
Published annually by RSF since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index measures the level of media freedom in 180 countries, including pluralism, media independence, the environment and self-censorship, the legal framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure supporting the production of news and information. It does not evaluate government policy.
The global indicator and the regional indicators are calculated on the basis of the scores assigned to each country. These country scores are calculated from answers to a questionnaire in 20 languages completed by experts around the world, supported by a qualitative analysis.