Watchdog finds journalism not free in three-quarters of 180 surveyed nations

Paris, Apr 20 (EFE).- Journalism is “completely or partly blocked” in nearly three-quarters of the 180 countries surveyed for the World Press Freedom Index, the annual report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said Tuesday.

The media watchdog said it found that journalism was “totally blocked or seriously impeded in 73 countries and constrained in 59 others.”

“The Index data reflect a dramatic deterioration in people’s access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage,” said the report released Tuesday.

It said some countries had used the coronavirus pandemic as grounds to block journalists from accessing information sources and reporting in the field.

It said journalists were finding it increasingly hard to investigate and report sensitive stories, especially in Asia, the Middle East, and Europe.

“Journalism is the best vaccine against disinformation,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“Unfortunately, its production and distribution are too often blocked by political, economic, technological and, sometimes, even cultural factors,” he said.

The head of the press freedom watchdog said journalism “provides the most effective means of ensuring that public debate is based on a diverse range of established facts” in response to the virality of disinformation across borders, on digital platforms, and via social media.

The World Press Freedom map has not had so few countries colored white – indicating a country situation that is at least good if not optimal – since 2013 when the evaluation method began.

On the top of the list are the Nordic nations, with Norway, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, and Costa Rica ranking the highest.

Only 12 of the index’s 180 countries (7 percent) can claim to offer a favorable environment for journalism, as opposed to 13 last year.

Germany (down 2 at 13th) was stripped of its “good” classification.

The report said dozens of journalists were attacked in Germany by supporters of extremist and conspiracy theory believers during protests against pandemic restrictions.

“The press freedom situation in Germany is nonetheless still classified as ‘fairly good.’ as is the case in the United States,” the report said.

The US is down 1 at 44th place even as Donald Trump’s final year in the White House was marked by a record number of assaults against journalists and arrests of members of the media, according to the US Press Freedom Tracker, of which RSF is a partner.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region remains the most repressive for media, the report said.

It highlighted the worsening press freedom situations in Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria that “have taken advantage of the Covid-19 pandemic to reinforce their methods for gagging the media and to reaffirm their monopoly on news and information.”

Brazil (down 4 at 111th) has joined the countries colored red, indicating that the press freedom situation is classified as “bad” in President Jair Bolsonaro’s country.

Brazil shares the “bad” classification with India (142nd), Mexico (143rd), and Russia (down 1 at 150th), which deployed its repressive apparatus to limit media coverage of protests in support of Kremlin opponent Alexei Navalny.

China (177th), which continues to take Internet censorship, surveillance, and propaganda to unprecedented levels, is still firmly anchored among the Index’s worst countries, indicated in black on the press freedom map.

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