WASHINGTON, Apr 29 – Freedom of the press around the world has plummeted to the worst level in a decade, a survey warned Wednesday, with the United States and China both tightening the noose.
Journalists globally encountered more restrictions from governments, militants, criminals and media owners, the annual report by the human rights group Freedom House said.
“Journalists faced intensified pressure from all sides in 2014,” said Jennifer Dunham, project manager of the report.
“Governments used security or antiterrorism laws as a pretext to silence critical voices, militant groups and criminal gangs used increasingly brazen tactics to intimidate journalists, and media owners attempted to manipulate news content to serve their political or business interests.”
One factor was the passage and use of restrictive laws, often on national security grounds.
“One of the most troubling developments of the past year was the struggle by democratic states to cope with an onslaught of propaganda from authoritarian regimes and militant groups,” Dunham said.
“There is a danger that instead of encouraging honest, objective journalism and freedom of information as the proper antidote, democracies will resort to censorship or propaganda of their own.”
Of the 199 countries and territories studied in 2014, a total of 63, or 32 percent, were rated “free” for the news media, while 71 (36 percent) were “partly free” and 65 (32 percent) “not free.”
Only 14 percent of the world’s inhabitants live in countries with a free press, Freedom House said.
The rating for the United States fell due to detentions, harassment, and rough treatment of journalists by police during protests in Ferguson, Missouri, the report said.
Elsewhere in the Americas, declines in press freedom were seen in Honduras, Peru, Venezuela, Mexico and Ecuador.
The report said only five percent of people in the Asia-Pacific region have a free press, and that the rating for China fell as “authorities tightened control over liberal media outlets.”
Europe as a region had the highest score but also experienced the second-largest decline over the past 10 years.
The report also cited tougher conditions for journalists in Russia, Syria, Algeria, Nigeria and Ethiopia, while Tunisia “registered the best score of any Arab country.”
Only two percent of those living in the Middle East and North Africa have a free press environment, Freedom House said.