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Press freedom watchdog finds reporters living in ‘intense climate of fear’

World

18 April 2019, 15:50

M.News

Journalists are facing increasing hostilities around the world including violence and persecution according to the international organisation Reporters Without Borders (known as RSF in France), Еuronews reports.

Their latest Press Freedom Index, covering 180 nations, shows the number of countries regarded as ‘safe’ is continuing to decline. Safe is defined in this case as ‘where journalists can work in complete security’.

Journalists working and living in fear

RSF found that security for reporters is declining in almost every region of the world.

Even leading democracies have been sliding down the scale with the US falling three places to 48th in the global rankings.

RSF is warning of an “intense climate of fear,” criticising attacks on the press by world leaders including US President Donald Trump.

“If the political debate slides surreptitiously or openly towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of the utmost urgency for all people of good will who value the freedoms acquired in the course of history.”

RSF said Europe is no longer a safe place for journalists to operate following the murders of reporters in Malta, Slovakia and Bulgaria.

The best and the worst

Norway comes out on top of the 2019 index for the third year running while Scandinavian neighbour Finland moved up two places to second position.

The Netherlands slipped four places because two reporters, who cover organised crime, have been forced to live under permanent police protection.

Authoritarian regimes have never been near the top of the list but in the past year many have fallen even further.

Venezuela slid five places to 148th with journalists facing arrests and violence by security forces.

Russia slipped one to 149th. RSF says the Kremlin uses arrests, arbitrary searches and draconian laws to keep the pressure on independent media and the internet.

At the bottom of the index come Vietnam (176) and China (177).

North Korea came in at 179 and last place, 180, fell to Turkmenistan.

RSF singled out the murder of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi for special mention. He was murdered in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October.

The organisation said his killing sent a chilling message to journalists well beyond the borders of Saudi Arabia (down three at 172).