Images of some of the world’s “bad boy” leaders in terms of press freedom were paraded as examples not to follow, as the organisation Reporters Without Borders (RSF) unveiled its latest World Press Freedom Index.
It concludes that while some of the best-known blackspots are bumping along the bottom, it’s the rise of authoritarian strongmen in western democracies that is causing particular concern.
“RSF’s latest World Press Freedom Index highlights the danger of a tipping point in the state of media freedom, especially in leading democratic countries,” it says.
The US falls from 41st to 43rd position, while the United Kingdom also falls two places from 38th to 40th. In both cases RSF cites the “obsession with surveillance and violations of the right to the confidentiality of sources”.
The RSF report says Donald Trump’s election and the Brexit campaign in the UK were marked by “high-profile media bashing and a toxic anti-media discourse that drove the world into a new era of post-truth, disinformation and fake news”.
Turkey, it says – down from 151st to 155th position after its failed coup – “swung over into the authoritarian regime camp and now distinguishes itself as the world’s biggest prison for media professionals”.
Within the EU Viktor Orban’s Hungary has fallen four places, to 71st. In Poland (down seven places to 54th) under Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the government has turned TV and radio into propaganda tools and tried to throttle independent newspapers that were opposed to its reforms, the report says.
Near the bottom of the scale, China and Vietnam are described as the globe’s “biggest prisons for journalists and bloggers”. While leapfrogging Eritrea into bottom place, the report says North Korea “continues to keep its population in ignorance and terror”.