France-based Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontières, or RSF) released its 2016 World Press Freedom Index on Wednesday, and the news is grim. All parts of the world have seen a decline in press freedom, leading to fears of a “new era of propaganda.”
“The 2016 edition of the World Press Freedom Index…shows that there has been a deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels. Ever since the 2013 index, Reporters Without Borders has been calculating indicators of the overall level of media freedom violations in each of the world’s regions and worldwide. The higher the figure, the worse the situation. The global indicator has gone from 3719 points last year to 3857 points this year, a 3.71% deterioration. The decline since 2013 is 13.6%.”
Physical threats to journalists, increasingly authoritarian governments, threats from religious ideologies, tighter control of state-owned media and lack of security in war-torn countries are all contributing to the downward spiral.
Latin America, whose ranking plunged 20.5%, is of particular concern. Journalists are attacked and murdered in Mexico and central America, while corruption in Brazil and media concentration in Argentina are also factors.
Repressive governments, including U.S. allies in the Middle East and communist China, suspend access to the internet or even destroy media premises or equipment. Oligarchs are buying up media outlets to exert pressure along with their allies in government.
Around the world, laws are being adopted to criminalize journalists for things such as “insulting the president,” “blasphemy” or “supporting terrorism.”
Christophe Deloire, secretary general of RSF, spoke to Agence France Presse about the situation.
“All of the indicators show a deterioration. Numerous authorities are trying to regain control of their countries, fearing overly open public debate. Today, it is increasingly easy for powers to appeal directly to the public through new technologies, and so there is a greater degree of violence against those who represent independent information. We are entering a new era of propaganda where new technologies allow the low-cost dissemination of [governments’] own communication, their information, as dictated. On the other side, journalists are the ones who get in the way.”