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Media (R)evolutions: A 'deep and disturbing decline' in media freedom worldwide

Roxanne Bauer's picture

New developments and curiosities from a changing global media landscape: People, Spaces, Deliberation brings trends and events to your attention that illustrate that tomorrow's media environment will look very different from today's, and will have little resemblance to yesterday's.

It is widely acknowledged that a basic precondition for inclusive, democratic societies to function is a well-established and protected freedom of the press. A free press is one where political reporting is strong and independent, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and media are not subject to burdensome legal or economic pressures. Under these conditions, free debate, challenges to authority, and new ideas are all possible.
 
Nevertheless, “there has been a deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels,” in recent months according to the 2016 World Press Freedom Index. The World Press Freedom Index is an annual ranking and report on global media freedom around the world, produced by Reporters Without Borders (RSF). RSF attributes much of the global decline to antagonistic politics, new security laws, increased government surveillance, and physical attacks on journalists that all stifle the spirit of investigation and send chilling messages to journalists and media outlets. 
 
This map shows the countries where media are free to report the news and where the media is strictly controlled.
 
World press freedom visualised
Infographic: World press freedom visualised | Statista
You will find more statistics at Statista

 
RSF ranks 180 countries by a range of criteria such as pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative environment, transparency, infrastructure, and abuses.
 
RSF’s index is joined by Freedom House’s Freedom of the Press rankings, which give each country and territory a total press freedom score from 0 (best) to 100 (worst) on the basis of 23 methodology questions divided into three subcategories. The total score determines the status designation of Free, Partly Free, or Not Free.
 
Both rankings were released leading up to World Press Freedom Day, which aims to raise awareness of the fundamental principles of press freedom, evaluate press freedom around the world, defend media from attacks on their independence, and pay tribute to journalists who have lost their lives in the exercise of their profession. This year it was celebrated on May 3, coinciding with the 250th anniversary of the world’s first freedom of information law and the 25th anniversary of the adoption of the Windhoek Declaration of press freedom principles in Africa.
 
Niall McCarthy, a data journalist at Statista, created the map for the Independent, using data from the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

Comments

Submitted by Jason Brown on

What a lovely green colour!

Sadly, New Zealand press freedom is not in a "good condition", as ranked by Reporters Sans Frontiers and the World Press Freedom Index.

Journalism job losses have been consistent, for decades.

State-owned television has been stripped of its public charter, with TVNZ focusing on infotaintment, and paying heavy dividends to the government. Funding for public radio has been frozen for nearly 10 years, despite a KPMG review urging more, not less, support.

New Zealand journalists have not held a national conference since 2007, a one-off union affair that was the first since 1987, when the New Zealand Journalists Association (defunct) last met. The former EPM union promised a journalism review and a follow up conference by 2008, but neither eventuated. A successor union, ETU, carried over reference to a Media Freedom Network on its new website, but the MFN is not registered anywhere, nor are there public means of access.

Similarly, the biggest journalism group, Kiwi Journalists Association, is a Facebook group only, with some 2000+ members, but members are banned if they challenge ethical breaches. KJA is not registered, and holds no meetings.

A Media Freedom Committee is not registered either, but claims membership from management level of media outlets. It does not have a website, or declare office holders other than its Chair, whose election - or appointment - is a mystery.

There is a National Press Club that is registered and has a website, but was disavowed more than ten years ago by journalists, after it invited a holocaust denier to speak at one of its events.

A chapter of the Australian union, the Media, Entertainment and Arts Alliance was registered in New Zealand, and maintains an office, but officials here made it clear they were only interested in actor equity issues, not journalism, or media.

The main private broadcaster, TV3, sacked the country's most popular current affairs host, despite a petition with 70,000+ signatures, at the same time a former manager was offered a nz$20 million bonus for cost cutting - both astonishing figures for a country of less than five million.

Perhaps most damning, a global Transparency International survey that asked citizens to rate their most corrupt institutions saw New Zealand as one of just four countries where media headed the list.

The survey undercuts TI's own Corruption Perceptions Index, which ranked New Zealand first equal for years, despite myriad exposes involving its defacto tax haven activities, and hundreds of lives and billions of dollars lost to regulatory failure in private and commercial construction, mining and financial services.

New Zealand is neither clean nor green, and journalists here can only dream of attaining the "good conditions" enjoyed by their European counterparts.

Not a criticism of this article, at all, more an objection to lack of deeper scrutiny from global media freedom rankings.

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