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Mapped: The State of Press Freedom Around the World

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Mapped: The State of Press Freedom Around the World

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In many Western countries, it’s easy to take press freedom for granted.

Instances of fake news, clickbait, and hyper-partisan reporting are points of consternation in the modern media landscape, and can sometimes overshadow the greater good that unrestricted journalism provides to society.

Of course, the ability to do that important work can vary significantly around the world. Being an investigative journalist in Sweden comes with a very different set of circumstances and considerations than doing the same thing in a country such as Saudi Arabia or Venezuela.

Today’s map highlights the results of the 2020 Global Press Freedom Index, produced by Reporters Without Borders. The report looks at press freedom in 180 countries and territories.

A Profession Not Without Its Risks

Today, nearly 75% of countries are in categories that the report describes as problematic, difficult, and very serious.

While these negative forces often come in the form of censorship and intimidation, journalism can be a risky profession in some of the more restrictive countries. One example is Mexico, where nearly 60 journalists were killed as a direct result of their reporting over the last decade.

journalists killed around the world

There is good news though: the number of journalists killed last year was the lowest since the report began in 2002.

Even better, press freedom scores increased around the world in the 2020 report.

Press Freedom: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly

Here are the scores for all 180 countries and territories covered in the report, sorted by 2020 ranking and score:

Rank (2020)Country or RegionScore (2020)Prev. Rank (2019)Change in Rank
#1🇳🇴 Norway7.8410
#2🇫🇮 Finland7.9320
#3🇩🇰 Denmark8.1352
#4🇸🇪 Sweden9.253-1
#5🇳🇱 Netherlands9.964-1
#6🇯🇲 Jamaica10.5182
#7🇨🇷 Costa Rica10.53103
#8🇨🇭 Switzerland10.626-2
#9🇳🇿 New Zealand10.697-2
#10🇵🇹 Portugal11.83122
#11Germany12.16132
#12Belgium12.579-3
#13Ireland12.60152
#14Estonia12.6111-3
#15Iceland15.1214-1
#16Canada15.29182
#17Luxembourg15.46170
#18Austria15.7816-2
#19Uruguay15.79190
#20Suriname17.50200
#21Samoa18.25221
#22Latvia18.56242
#23Namibia19.25230
#24Liechtenstein19.52262
#25Cape Verde20.15250
#26Australia20.2121-5
#27Cyprus20.45281
#28Lithuania21.19302
#29Spain22.16290
#30Ghana22.2627-3
#31South Africa22.41310
#32Slovenia22.64342
#33Slovakia22.67352
#34France22.9232-2
#35United Kingdom22.9333-2
#36Trinidad and Tobago23.22393
#37Andorra23.23370
#38Burkina Faso23.4736-2
#39Botswana23.56445
#40Czech Republic23.57400
#41Italy23.69432
#42South Korea23.7041-1
#43Taiwan23.7642-1
#44OECS23.78506
#45United States23.85483
#46Papua New Guinea23.9338-8
#47Senegal23.99492
#48Romania25.9147-1
#49Guyana26.63512
#50Tonga27.2745-5
#51Chile27.3146-5
#52Fiji27.41520
#53Belize27.50530
#54Madagascar27.68540
#55Dominican Republic27.90550
#56Mauritius28.00582
#57Niger28.25669
#58Bosnia and Herzegovina28.51635
#59Croatia28.51645
#60Georgia28.59600
#61Armenia28.60610
#62Poland28.6559-3
#63Seychelles28.66696
#64Argentina28.7857-7
#65Greece28.80650
#66Japan28.86671
#67Bhutan28.908013
#68Ivory Coast28.94713
#69Malawi29.3268-1
#70Kosovo29.33755
#71Togo29.33765
#72Tunisia29.45720
#73Mongolia29.6170-3
#74El Salvador29.70817
#75Comoros29.7756-19
#76Panama29.78793
#77Cyprus North29.7974-3
#78East Timor29.90846
#79Maldives29.939819
#80Hong Kong30.0173-7
#81Malta30.1677-4
#82Kyrgyzstan30.19831
#83Haiti30.2062-21
#84Albania30.2582-2
#85Sierra Leone30.28861
#86Lesotho30.4578-8
#87Gambia30.62925
#88Israel30.84880
#89Hungary30.8487-2
#90Peru30.9485-5
#91Moldova31.16910
#92Macedonia31.28953
#93Serbia31.6290-3
#94Guinea-Bissau32.0689-5
#95Liberia32.2593-2
#96Ukraine32.521026
#97Mauritania32.5494-3
#98Ecuador32.6297-1
#99Ethiopia32.8211011
#100Paraguay32.9799-1
#101Malaysia33.1212322
#102Lebanon33.19101-1
#103Kenya33.72100-3
#104Mozambique33.79103-1
#105Montenegro33.83104-1
#106Angola33.921093
#107Brazil34.05105-2
#108Mali34.121124
#109Kuwait34.30108-1
#110Guinea34.34107-3
#111Bulgaria35.061110
#112Nepal35.10106-6
#113Benin35.1196-17
#114Bolivia35.37113-1
#115Nigeria35.631205
#116Guatemala35.741160
#117Nicaragua35.81114-3
#118Congo36.56117-1
#119Indonesia36.821245
#120Zambia37.00119-1
#121Gabon37.20115-6
#122Afghanistan37.70121-1
#123Chad39.70122-1
#124Tanzania40.25118-6
#125Uganda40.951250
#126Zimbabwe40.951271
#127Sri Lanka41.94126-1
#128Jordan42.081302
#129Qatar42.51128-1
#130Colombia42.66129-1
#131United Arab Emirates42.691332
#132C.A.R.42.8714513
#133Morocco42.881352
#134Cameroon43.28131-3
#135Oman43.42132-3
#136Philippines43.54134-2
#137Palestine44.091370
#138South Sudan44.491391
#139Myanmar44.77138-1
#140Thailand44.94136-4
#141Swaziland45.151476
#142India45.33140-2
#143Mexico45.451441
#144Cambodia45.46143-1
#145Pakistan45.52142-3
#146Algeria45.52141-5
#147Venezuela45.661481
#148Honduras48.20146-2
#149Russian Federation48.921490
#150Congo (DRC)49.091544
#151Bangladesh49.37150-1
#152Brunei49.651520
#153Belarus49.751530
#154Turkey50.021573
#155Rwanda50.341550
#156Uzbekistan53.071604
#157Kazakhstan54.111581
#158Singapore55.23151-7
#159Sudan55.3317516
#160Burundi55.33159-1
#161Tajikistan55.341610
#162Iraq55.37156-6
#163Somalia55.451641
#164Libya55.77162-2
#165Equatorial Guinea56.381650
#166Egypt56.82163-3
#167Yemen58.251681
#168Azerbaijan58.48166-2
#169Bahrain60.13167-2
#170Saudi Arabia62.141722
#171Cuba63.81169-2
#172Laos64.28171-1
#173Iran64.81170-3
#174Syria72.571740
#175Vietnam74.711761
#176Djibouti76.73173-3
#177China78.481770
#178Eritrea83.501780
#179Turkmenistan85.441801
#180North Korea85.82179-1

Which countries stood out in this year’s edition of the press freedom rankings?

Norway: Nordic Countries have topped the Press Freedom Index since its inception, and Norway (Rank: #1) in particular is an example for the world. Despite a very free media environment, the government recently mandated a commission to conduct a comprehensive review of the conditions for freedom of speech. Members will consider measures to promote the broadest possible participation in the public debate, and means to hamper the spread of fake news and hate speech.

Malaysia: A new government ushered in a less restrictive era in Malaysia in 2018. Journalists and media outlets that had been blacklisted were able to resume working, and anti-fake news laws that were viewed as problematic were repealed. As a result, Malaysia’s index score has improved by 15 points in the past two years. This is in sharp contrast to neighbor, Singapore, which is ranked 158th out of 180 countries.

Ethiopia: When Abiy Ahmed Ali took power in Africa’s second most populous country in 2018, his government restored access to over 200 news websites and blogs that had been previously blocked. As well, many detained journalists and bloggers were released as the chill over the country’s highly restrictive media environment began to thaw. As a result, Ethiopia (#99) jumped up eleven spots in the Press Freedom Index in 2020.

The Middle East: Though the situation in this region has begun to stabilize somewhat, restrictions still remain – even in relatively safe and stable countries. Both Saudi Arabia (#170) and Egypt (#166) have imprisoned a number of journalists in recent years, and the former is still dealing with the reputational fallout from the assassination of Saudi dissident and Washington Post columnist, Jamal Khashoggi.

China: Sitting near the bottom of the list is China (#176). More than 100 journalists and bloggers are currently detained as the country maintains a tight grip over the press – particularly as COVID-19 began to spread. Earlier this year, the Chinese government also expelled over a dozen journalists representing U.S. publications.

2020: A Pivotal Year for the Press

As the world grapples with a deadly pandemic, a global economic shutdown, and a crucial election year, the media could find itself in the spotlight more than in previous years.

How the stories of 2020 are told will influence our collective future – and how regimes choose to treat journalists under this atypical backdrop will tell us a lot about press freedom going forward.

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Politics

A Century of Unions in Europe (1920-2022)

This year marks 100 years since the birth of the Soviet Union. How have countries in and near Europe aligned themselves over the last century?

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the ussr and the eu

Timeline: A Century of Unions in Europe (1920-2022)

On February 24th, Russia invaded Ukraine launching one of the biggest wars on European soil since World War II. The invasion reflects a longstanding belief of Russia’s that Ukraine—and much of the Soviet Union’s former republics and satellite states—is still their territory to claim. But what is the “former glory” of Russia?

Of the USSR’s former republics and satellite states, many have moved on to join the European Union, and in Putin’s eyes have become more “Westernized” and further from Russian values. In fact, Ukraine recently had its candidacy status approved with the EU.

It’s now been a full century since the formation of the USSR. Much has changed since then, and this visual timeline breaks down how countries within and near Europe have aligned themselves over those 100 years.

ℹ️ In the above visual, Soviet satellite states are not shown as a part of the USSR, as they were never formal republics. Candidate countries still in process to join the EU are not shown.

The USSR / Soviet Union

The Soviet Union—officially titled the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR)—was formed 100 years ago in 1922 and was dissolved in 1991 almost 70 years later. At its height it was home to 15 republics, over 286 million people, and stretched from the Pacific Ocean to Ukraine, with virtual control and influence in countries as far west as East Germany.

Notable leaders characterized both the rise and fall of the USSR, starting with its establishment under Vladimir Lenin until the union’s dissolution under Mikhail Gorbachev. Latvia and Lithuania were among the first republics to make the move for sovereignty, beginning the demise of the Soviet Union.

Here’s a look at which modern day countries were a part of the USSR.

Modern Day CountryName Under USSRDate JoinedDate Gained Independence
🇬🇪 GeorgiaGeorgian Soviet Socialist Republic19221991
🇺🇦 UkraineUkrainian Soviet Socialist Republic19221991
🇦🇲 ArmeniaArmenian Soviet Socialist Republic19221991
🇦🇿 AzerbaijanAzerbaijan Soviet Socialist Republic19221991
🇧🇾 BelarusByelorussian Soviet Socialist Republic19221991
🇷🇺 RussiaRussian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic19221991
🇺🇿 UzbekistanUzbek Soviet Socialist Republic19241991
🇹🇲 TurkmenistanTurkmen Soviet Socialist Republic19241991
🇹🇯 TajikistanTajik Soviet Socialist Republic19291991
🇰🇬 KyrgyzstanKirghiz Soviet Socialist Republic19361991
🇰🇿 KazakhstanKazakh Soviet Socialist Republic19361991
🇱🇹 Lithuania Lithuanian Soviet Socialist Republic19401990
🇪🇪 EstoniaEstonian Soviet Socialist Republic19401991
🇱🇻 LatviaLatvian Soviet Socialist Republic19401990
🇲🇩 MoldovaMoldavian Soviet Socialist Republic19401991

Additionally, there were multiple satellite states, which were not formally joined with the USSR, but operated under intense Soviet influence.

Modern Day Country Country Name at the Time
🇦🇱 AlbaniaPeople's Republic of Albania
🇵🇱 PolandPolish People's Republic
🇧🇬 BulgariaPeople's Republic of Bulgaria
🇷🇴 RomaniaRomanian People's Republic
🇨🇿 CzechiaCzechoslovak Socialist Republic
🇸🇰 SlovakiaCzechoslovak Socialist Republic
🇩🇪 Germany East Germany (German Democratic Republic)
🇭🇺 HungaryHungarian People's Republic
🇸🇮 SloveniaFederal People's Republic of Yugoslavia
🇭🇷 CroatiaFederal People's Republic of Yugoslavia
🇷🇸 SerbiaFederal People's Republic of Yugoslavia
🇧🇦 Bosnia & HerzegovinaFederal People's Republic of Yugoslavia
🇲🇪 MontenegroFederal People's Republic of Yugoslavia
🇲🇰 North MacedoniaFederal People's Republic of Yugoslavia
🇲🇳 MongoliaMongolian People's Republic

Today, there are still some countries that align themselves with Putin and Russia over the EU.

Belarus, sometimes called Europe’s “last dictatorship”, shares a border with both Ukraine and Russia and facilitated the entry of Russian soldiers into Ukraine. Furthermore, according to the Pentagon, Russian missiles have been launched from Belarus.

The European Union

The European Union was officially formed in 1993 and has 27 member states. Some former USSR republics are now a part of the union including Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania. The most recent member to join was Croatia in 2013.

The EU has its roots in the European Coal & Steel Community which was formed in 1952 with Italy, France, West Germany and a few other countries comprising its first members. There are currently six candidate countries on track to join the EU — all but one were either former Soviet satellite states or formal republics:

  • 🇦🇱 Albania
  • 🇲🇪 Montenegro
  • 🇲🇰 North Macedonia
  • 🇷🇸 Serbia
  • 🇹🇷 Turkey
  • 🇺🇦 Ukraine
  • 🇲🇩 Moldova

There are many reasons countries opt to join the EU: a common currency, easier movement of goods and people between national borders, and, of course, military protection.

However, in 2020 the UK formally left the union, making it the first country in history to do so. Here’s a look at every EU member state.

EU Member StatesYear JoinedFormer USSR Republic?Former USSR Satellite State?
🇦🇹 Austria1995NoNo
🇧🇪 Belgium1952NoNo
🇧🇬 Bulgaria2007NoYes
🇭🇷 Croatia2013NoYes
🇨🇾 Cyprus2004NoNo
🇨🇿 Czechia2004NoYes
🇩🇰 Denmark1973NoNo
🇪🇪 Estonia2004Yes--
🇫🇮 Finland1995NoNo
🇫🇷 France1952NoNo
🇩🇪 Germany1952NoYes (East Germany)
🇬🇷 Greece1981NoNo
🇭🇺 Hungary2004NoYes
🇮🇪 Ireland1973NoNo
🇮🇹 Italy1952NoNo
🇱🇻 Latvia2004Yes--
🇱🇹 Lithuania2004Yes--
🇱🇺 Luxembourg1952NoNo
🇲🇹 Malta2004NoNo
🇳🇱 Netherlands1952NoNo
🇵🇱 Poland2004NoYes
🇵🇹 Portugal1986NoNo
🇷🇴 Romania2007NoYes
🇸🇰 Slovakia2004NoYes
🇸🇮 Slovenia2004NoYes
🇪🇸 Spain1986NoNo
🇸🇪 Sweden1995NoNo

Ukraine’s Outlook

The iron curtain that was draped across Europe, which used to divide the continent politically and ideologically, has since been drawn back. But the war in Ukraine is a threat to many in Europe, and countries such as Poland have voiced fears about the spillover of conflict.

In late June, the European Council approved Ukraine’s bid for expedited candidacy to the EU, but the process will still likely be lengthy—for example, it took Croatia 10 years to formally join at the normal pace.

Beyond other needs such as military support, joining the union would allow refugees from Ukraine the freedom to migrate and work in other EU countries with ease.

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Misc

Missing Migrants: Visualizing Lost Lives Along the Mediterranean Sea

Each year, thousands of migrants take the journey along the Eastern Mediterranean to get to the EU. Some never make it to their destination.

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Map of Missing Migrants along the Eastern Mediterranean

Missing Migrants: Lost Lives Along the Mediterranean Sea

Each year, thousands of migrants flee war-torn countries in search of asylum.

Even before the migrant crisis caused by the Russo-Ukrainian War, Europe has been the focal point in the past decade. Many refugees from conflicts in Africa and Asia, including those from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and have traveled to Europe along the Eastern Mediterranean migration route—a dangerous passage across the Aegean Sea that weaves along the coastlines of Greece and Turkey.

The journey to reach Europe is risky, and some of the migrants who attempt the crossing never make it. Using data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), this map by Elbie Bentley visualizes the reported deaths and disappearances along the Eastern Mediterranean from 2014 to 2021.

Inspired by Levi Westerveld’s Those Who Did Not Cross, each lost life is captured with its own dot, in an effort to humanize the data.

The 2015 European Crisis

1,863 deaths and disappearances were reported along the Eastern Mediterranean between the years of 2014 and 2021.

Almost half of those recordings came from 2015 during the European migrant crisis, when a record-breaking one million people sought asylum in the EU.

About 800,000 of the one million migrants traveled to Greece through Turkey, with many of the refugees escaping Syria’s civil war.

European Migrant Crisis by YearReported deaths and disappearances
2014101
2015804
2016434
201762
2018174
201971
2020106
2021111

In an attempt to control the situation, the EU and Turkey signed a migration deal in March 2016 that agreed to send back migrants who did not receive official permission to enter the EU.

Though the agreement drastically reduced the number of people traveling through Turkey to Greece, thousands still make the dangerous journey across the Aegean Sea each year. In 2021, 111 people were reported dead or missing along the Eastern Mediterranean.

The Dangerous Journey

According to the International Organization for Migration, the most common cause of death along the Eastern Mediterranean is drowning.

While the journey is only 5.4 nautical miles or less, transportation conditions to Greece are not always safe. Boats are sometimes forced into tumultuous waters, according to migrants who’ve experienced the journey firsthand.

And these boats are often severely underequipped and overcrowded—rubber dinghies designed to carry a dozen people are sometimes loaded with up to 60 passengers.

Safer means of transportation are available, but the costs are steep. According to Frontex, the European Border and Coast Guard Agency, it could cost a family an average of €10,000 to travel by yacht.

Rescue Efforts for Migrants is Needed

Further complicating the dangerous journey is a lack of rescue resources.

According to a 2021 report by IOM, the EU does not currently have a dedicated search and rescue team. Instead, the onus is on individual states to patrol their own waters.

Until the crisis is better addressed or local conflicts begin to resolve, there will be an urgent need for increased rescue operations and a standardized migration protocol to help mitigate the number of migrant deaths and disappearances each year.

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