Harsh Laws and
Violence Drive Global Decline
The latest edition of an annual report published by Freedom House since 1980, found that global press freedom declined in 2014 to its lowest point in more than 10 years. The rate of decline also accelerated drastically, with the global average score suffering its largest one-year drop in a decade. The share of the world’s population that enjoys a Free press stood at 14 percent, meaning only one in seven people live in countries where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.
The steepest declines worldwide relate to two factors: the passage and use of restrictive laws against the press—often on national security grounds—and the ability of local and foreign journalists to physically access and report freely from a given country, including protest sites and conflict areas. Paradoxically, in a time of seemingly unlimited access to information and new methods of content delivery, more and more areas of the world are becoming virtually inaccessible to journalists.
While there were positive developments in some countries, the dominant global trend was negative. The number of countries with significant improvements (8) was the lowest since 2009, while the number with significant declines (18) was the highest in 7 years. The 18 countries and territories that declined represented a politically diverse cross-section—including Greece, Hong Kong, Iceland, Serbia, and South Africa—indicating that the global deterioration in press freedom is not limited to autocracies or war zones. Also featured among the major backsliders were Algeria, Azerbaijan, Egypt, Honduras, Libya, South Sudan, and Thailand.