Journalists investigate and tell the truth, questioning authority if necessary. Today, however, this role is increasingly under threat. As a result, press freedom is under attack in several areas of the world. The rise of authoritarian and nationalist leaders has contributed to the increase in acts of violence against journalists.
Moreover, they are increasingly being pointed out as scapegoats. The confirmation of this alarming trend comes from the World Press Freedom Index 2019, published annually by Reporters Without Borders (Rwb).
What Is the World Press Freedom Index?
The World Press Freedom Index shows how hatred of journalists has degenerated into violence, contributing to increased fear.
The report thus reveals the growing hostility towards journalists, often fostered by political leaders. As a result, the number of countries considered safe continues to drop. Since 2002, the first year of publication of the index by RWB, the situation has never been so serious. In fact, the global indicator has fell by 13% since 2013. In addition, the number of countries where the situation for journalists is good has decreased by 40%.
The index by RWB evaluates each year the level of freedom of journalism in 180 countries. In particular, it focuses first of all on the level of pluralism. Secondly, it considers the independence of the media, the environment in which the media operate and self-censorship. Moreover, it takes into account the legal framework, transparency and quality of the infrastructures supporting the production of news and information. On the other hand, it does not evaluate the policy of the governments of the states analysed.
Why Being Journalists Is Dangerous
2018 was one of the deadliest years ever for journalists. In fact, more than eighty reporters died worldwide. 2019 is going just as badly. One of the most tragic cases of 2019 concerns the Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. He was murdered last October in the consulate of Saudi Arabia in Turkey because he was considered uncomfortable by the Saudi regime.
Despite the risks and threats, many investigative reporters continue to work in the name of the truth. In order to hinder them, some countries, such as France and Malta, try to punish them financially. In other countries instead, such as Poland and Bulgaria, “too curious” journalists end up in prison.
Finally, the World Press Freedom 2019 warns against the danger of disinformation, especially in some parts of the world. In Myanmar, for example, the manipulation of social networks has produced a surge in anti-Rohingya hate messages, an ethnic group of Islamic religion. As a result, the seven-year prison sentences handed down to two Reuters journalists for attempting to investigate the Rohingya genocide were considered “normal”.