On the 2020 World Press Freedom Index map, compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), 21 African countries appear in red or black. Those who produce news and information are working in difficult, even critical, conditions. The coming decade will be decisive for the future of journalism on the continent.
What with interminable trials in Morocco, frequent arrests and prolonged pre-trial detention in Algeria and media outlets pressganged into serving belligerents in Libya, the environment for journalists has continued to worsen in North Africa – except Tunisia, which continues its democratic transition despite delays with reforming its media legislation.
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The 2020 Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index shows that troubling trends continued throughout North America, despite a slight overall improvement. Moving into the new decade, it is urgent that the United States restores its role as a champion of the free press at home and abroad in order for it to be considered a leading democracy.
The environment for journalists in Latin America is increasingly complex and hostile. Many journalists covering sensitive subjects have experienced an increase in harassment, violence and intimidation. At the same time, the media have been subjected to major smear campaigns in most of the region’s countries.
You could still harbour serious hopes about press freedom in Asia and Oceania in 2010 but the past decade has seen a steep decline, with the adoption of undemocratic and totalitarian practices, the emergence of a populism that unleashes hatred on journalists, and extreme media polarization. The region is facing huge challenges.
Behind the lack of any major movement by the countries of Eastern Europe and Central Asia in the latest World Press Freedom Index, there are disturbing signs. The increasing expertise in new technologies that the region’s authoritarian or unstable regimes are acquiring could result in more censorship of the media. The regional heavyweights, Moscow and Ankara, continue to set a bad example.
Dark clouds still gather over the Middle East, with one country, Iraq, slipping into the countries coloured black on the press freedom map. After a slight drop in the number of infringements, any hopes of appeasement were dispelled by violent crackdowns on public protests, the resumption of increasingly localized military operations and tighter control by iron-fisted governments.
More and more of the continent’s journalists are suffering the consequences of a decline in the rule of law, assaults, online threats and financial troubles.