Global media freedom is at its lowest level for a decade according to a new international survey published by Article 19.
The wide-ranging V-Dem project saw academics gather data on freedom of expression from 172 countries worldwide for the Expression Agenda report.
It found that in 2016 259 journalists were imprisoned worldwide for doing their jobs and 79 were killed.
And the report warned that much of the world’s digital content is now “regulated by the community standards of a handful of internet companies, whose processes lack transparency and are not subject to the checks and balances of traditional governance”.
One improvement has been around the right to government information.
In 1970, only four countries had national right to information laws: Finland, Norway, Sweden, and the US. Today, some 119 countries have some sort of freedom to information
Some of the worst countries in the world for journalists and freedom of expression in 2017, according to the V-Dem data, were:
“Recorded 320 attacks against journalists and bloggers: three were murdered, including Xulhaz Mannan, editor of the country’s first and only lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender/intersex (LGBTI) magazine Roopban.”
“Some 22 journalists received death threats and four were murdered. “
“There were 426 attacks against journalists and media outlets, including the murder of 11 journalists. When the authorities failed to prosecute the killers of journalist Pedro Tamayo, his colleague and partner Alicia Blanco bravely denounced their failure to act. She too then became the victim of death threats.”
“More than 80 journalists faced aggression while carrying out their work. The journalist Isaiah Gwengi was arbitrarily detained, beaten, stripped, and taunted by police officers while covering a story on police brutality.”
“In November 2017, local rights groups estimate 153 journalists and media workers were imprisoned. Some 184 media outlets have been closed by decree and only four nationally-distributed critical newspapers remain in publication. Hundreds of journalists have had their press cards revoked and countless others have had their passports cancelled.
“Hundreds of journalists are being tried under terrorism propaganda or incitement charges. High-profile mass-trials of journalists in relation to the coup attempt are also on-going, including trials against Cumhuriyet, Turkey’s oldest newspaper and main opposition outlet; against the Altan brothers and Nazlı Ilıcak, well-known government critics and public commentators; and against writers for Zaman, a newspaper allegedly affiliated with the Gülen Movement.”
The situation has however improved in Tunisia, Sri Lanka and Nepal, all of which have seen ” significant investment from the global community to improve the safety of journalists”.
Article 19 said: “This suggests that strategic intervention and resourcing, combined with political openness, can result in an improved environment for journalists and human rights defenders.”