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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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