Every year on May 3, UNESCO commemorates World Press Freedom Day to spotlight media freedom around the world.
This year, UNESCO’s theme, Journalism Under Digital Siege, will focus on the effect of digitisation on freedom of expression, access to information and the safety of journalists.
From 2016 to 2021, 455 journalists were killed, according to UNESCO, and 85 percent of the world’s population has seen a decrease in press freedom in their country.
Where is press freedom the most restricted?
Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) World Press Freedom Index measures pluralism, media independence, the robustness of legislative frameworks and the safety of journalists in 180 countries and five regions to paint a picture of media freedom.
According to the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, Eritrea has the worst press freedom followed by North Korea, Turkmenistan, China and Djibouti.
Europe ranks first as the region with the greatest press freedom. However, violence against journalists has increased, according to RSF.
Hungary ranks 92nd in the world, largely due to Prime Minister Victor Orban’s aggressive crackdown on the Hungarian media landscape. RSF says Orban has inspired other countries in Europe, including Slovenia and Poland, to consolidate their control over state media.
Norway ranked first for press freedom. In second place was neighbouring Finland, followed by Sweden, Denmark and Costa Rica.
How many journalists are killed each year?
So far, in 2022, 27 journalists and media workers have been killed, according to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Of those, at least 11 were killed in Ukraine since the war began in February.
CPJ defines journalists as individuals who cover news and comment on public affairs via any medium: print, online, broadcast, photographs, and videos.
This year, at least seven journalists and media workers have been killed in Mexico, three in Haiti and one journalist each in Kazakhstan, India, Myanmar, Chad, Brazil and Guatemala.
Since 1992, 2,146 journalists and media workers have been killed, according to the CPJ. At least 283 journalists were killed in Iraq and 154 in Syria.
How many journalists have been imprisoned?
In 2021, 293 journalists were imprisoned across the globe. Last year, China imprisoned the most journalists at 50, followed by Myanmar (26), Egypt (25), Vietnam (23) and Belarus (19).
This year, at least 65 journalists have been recorded missing, according to the CPJ.
Press freedom in Russia
In 2021, Russia ranked 150th in the world on RSF’s World Press Freedom Index.
Since the start of the Russia-Ukraine war, many journalists in Russia have faced state pressure and have self-censored for fear of retribution.
In March, Russia’s lower house of parliament, the Duma, passed a law on the spread of “fake news” about the Russian military, with prison sentences of up to 15 years.
According to UNESCO, at least 57 laws and regulations across 44 countries have been adopted or amended since 2016. These laws contain overly vague language aimed at punishing mis- and disinformation, cybercrime and hate speech, some with potentially threatening implications for press freedom.