With reporters attacked and arrested, their incomes falling and media undermined by disinformation and draconian laws, the coronavirus pandemic has compounded the huge difficulties for journalism in sub-Saharan Africa, where 23 of the 48 countries (two more than in 2020) are now marked as red or black on the World Press Freedom map, meaning the situation is classified as bad or very bad.
As a result of constant harassment of journalists and media in North Africa, three of the region’s countries – Morocco, Algeria and Libya – continue to be marked red or black on the World Press Freedom map because their situation is ranked as “bad” or “very bad,” although their citizens continue to demand more press freedom and access to information, as they have been doing since the 2011 Arab Spring.
World press freedom index 2021ICI
The 2021 Index points to worrying vital signs for press freedom in North America despite slight improvements — notably in Canada, which climbed two spots from 16 in 2020 to 14 this year, and in the United States, which moved up one place from 45th in 2020 to 44th this year.
The Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2021 World Press Freedom Index shows decline across the board in Latin America. With a few exceptions, the coronavirus crisis has exacerbated an already complex and hostile environment for journalists.
The region’s authoritarian regimes have used the Covid-19 pandemic to perfect their methods of totalitarian control of information, while the “dictatorial democracies” have used it as a pretext for imposing especially repressive legislation with provisions combining propaganda and suppression of dissent. The behaviour of the region’s few real democracies have meanwhile shown that journalistic freedom is the best antidote to disinformation.
RSF 2021 Index: No antidote to disinformation, media control virus in Eastern Europe and Central Asia
The Covid-19 pandemic’s lasting impact on press freedom, unprecedented crackdowns on reporters covering protests, and a war in the Caucasus, in which at least seven journalists were injured and reporting was obstructed, all helped to keep Eastern Europe and Central Asia in second from last position in the 2021 Index’s ranking of regions.
While exacerbating public discontent in the Middle East, the Covid-19 pandemic has also highlighted the worrying state of its media, which are slowly being killed off by repressive policies. The region continues to have 12 countries marked in red or black on the World Press Freedom map, signalling that the situation is bad or very bad. The conspicuous absence of change in these countries is reflected in the lack of significant movement in the Index.
Europe continues to be the most favourable continent for press freedom but violence against journalists has increased, and the mechanisms the European Union established to protect fundamental freedoms have yet to loosen Viktor Orbán’s grip on Hungary’s media or halt the draconian measures being taken in other central European countries.