Freedom House and the Newseum unveiled the updated World Press Freedom Map on April 28, reflecting challenges that journalists worldwide faced in 2016. The status of the free press in three countries changed last year: Poland’s press moved from free to partly free, the Maldives from partly free to not free, and Afghanistan from not free to partly free. Freedom House continues to monitor countries to see what 2017 will present in the way of threats to press freedom. Members of the press in Turkey, Kenya, Russia, Philippines, Hong Kong, and the United States all face dangers that must be addressed.
Press freedom is precarious, and journalists across the globe who work to bring us the news are facing unprecedented threats. It is no longer just authoritarian regimes that are imposing intensified crackdowns on the press; democracies are increasingly placing restrictions that limit journalists’ ability to report the facts. Only one in seven people worldwide lives in a country with access to a free press, a number that has remained at its lowest point in 13 years.
While the United States has some of the strongest press protections in the world, the current administration must continue our longstanding history of supporting the press in its role as a watchdog on the government. The negative rhetoric of President Trump’s administration toward the American press could potentially embolden authoritarian leaders’ efforts to stifle press freedom in other parts of the world. In addition, increasingly partisan reporting by American news organizations has diminished public trust in the media; a problem compounded by the spread of “fake news.” For the United States to act as a beacon for press freedom around the world, we must address these issues domestically and serve as a leading protector of journalists’ rights worldwide.
For more information on global press freedom in 2017, please see Freedom House’s report.