World Press Freedom Remained Low in 2013

Karin Karlekar

Karin Karlekar, project director at Freedom House, speaks at World Press Freedom Day. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)

The percentage of the world’s population that has access to a free press remained at its lowest point in more than a decade during 2013, as a range of governments intensified their efforts to limit the independence of both traditional and online media. The results were according to an annual survey released by Freedom House, which has documented media independence since 1980. The results were announced May 1 at a ceremony at the Newseum that included Rep. Adam Schiff, (D-Calif.), co-founder of the Congressional Caucus for Freedom of the Press. Schiff said that there is a direct correlation between freedom of the press and a country’s ability to thrive fundamentally. In 2013, the press status in 10 countries changed. “Only 14 percent of the world’s population live in free media environments,” said Karin Karlekar, project director at Freedom House. The Newseum’s color-coordinated international map, located in the Time Warner World News Gallery, reflects the different levels of press freedom internationally as determined by Freedom House. Countries painted in green have a free press. Those in yellow have partial press freedom. The countries in red allow no press freedom.

  • Five countries — Libya, South Sudan, Turkey, Ukraine and Zambia — changed from “partly free” to “not free”
  • Three countries — Algeria, Côte d’Ivoire and Paraguay — changed from “not free” to “partly free”
  • Israel changed from “partly free” to “free”
  • Nauru, an island country located in Micronesia, changed from “free” to “partly free”

Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands remain the most free in the world. North Korea, which saw a slight improvement in press freedom in 2012, is still the worst-rated country for press freedom. The rating for the United States is “free,” thanks to some of the strongest protections for press freedom in the world. However, journalists risk prosecution for protecting their sources. In addition, the government expanded attempts to control access to official information, particularly concerning national security issues, in 2013. After the program, Jim Sciutto, chief national security correspondent for CNN, moderated a panel discussion in the Knight TV Studio on the state of press freedom throughout the world. Panelists included Karlekar, Scott Shane, national security correspondent for The New York Times, and Al Jazeera correspondent Sue Turton. Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization based in Washington, D.C., that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world and advocates for democracy and human rights. Generous support for this annual program was provided by Bette Bao Lord and Winston Lord. For more information on Freedom House and the survey, please visit www.freedomhouse.org.

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