World press freedom index fell to a 13-year low, according to the annual report of the NGO Freedom House, based in Washington. The report was published April 28. It assesses the situation with freedom of speech in the world in 2016.
Russia has received this rating of 83 points out of 100, China — 87, Iran — 90, Saudi Arabia — 86, Turkey — 76, US — 23. Compared to last year the situation with freedom of speech has deteriorated in the US (overall rating decreased from 21 to 23) and Turkey (71 to 76). In the first case, the complications associated with the arrival of Donald trump to power in the second — with the purges after the failed coup in July 2016, the study authors explained.
Human rights activists concerned by the attempts of political leaders, including Russian President Vladimir Putin, to promote state propaganda, to impose all sorts of restrictions and to suppress freedom of speech in their countries. Concern for the cause of Freedom House and the complicated relationship between the American President Donald trump and journalists who believe that it infringes on their rights.
“Political leaders and other biased force in many democracies, including USA, Poland, the Philippines and South Africa have questioned the accuracy of independent media and fact-based journalism, ignoring the role of human rights organizations dealing with freedom of the press,” said Jennifer Dunham, author of the Freedom House.
The organization conducted a survey among the population of 199 countries in 2016, and found that only 13% say that they have a free press and journalists can work in safe conditions, to raise uncomfortable topics. In these countries, state intervention in the media is minimal: the journalists do not face protracted litigation and conduct their activities freely. 42% of respondents say that the situation with mass media is partially free, while 45% live in countries in which the “no freedom” and the situation is unfavourable for journalists.
The same conclusions reached by the authors of the report in France based organization “reporters without borders”, which was released last week. They claim that in 72 countries, press freedom is under threat, including in the US and the UK.
According to representatives of Freedom House, the threat comes primarily from politicians who are trying to discredit authoritative media. “When politicians harshly criticized the media, they set an example for their colleagues from other countries to do the same,” said Freedom House President Michael Abramowitz.
According to human rights activists, with the coming to power of Donald trump the situation in the USA deteriorated. Trump called mainstream media enemies of the people, and this is of concern because it unleashes authoritarian regimes, which suppress independent media and promoting state propaganda, according to human rights activists.
Russia is using this situation to their advantage in attempts to manipulate the news and to impose its agenda on the global level, says Freedom House. China, Ethiopia, Iran, Syria, Turkey have strict control over the press, threatening journalists with reprisals for their critical coverage of events in those countries.
The press freedom situation is also deteriorating in Poland “due to the intolerance of the state towards independent and critical journalism”.
With the conclusions of human rights defenders agree with the American writer-journalist and former Moscow correspondent for National Public Radio (NPR) Gregory phifer. Trump pose a threat to independent media and “undermined democratic institutions”, setting a bad example, he said .
The results of the ranking can be disputed, political analyst, expert of the PIR Center Dmitry Polikanov. “Freedom of speech — the concept is quite ephemeral. Rather, at the level of sensation is read, and not at the level of quantitative indicators,” he says. It is possible to evaluate the role of the state in media ownership of a majority of the shares of media companies, but if the government acts through his intermediaries, the situation is very difficult to assess objectively, he said.
“In the era of post-truth and false news, the question is not whether a free press or not, and how to ensure that its main role is to provide timely, objective and reliable information to the audience. In the era of the dominance of the Internet and social media when traditional media are losing ground gradually, what is the point to carefully evaluate their freedom, because now everyone is a reporter,” concludes Polikanov.