Media Rights Groups: Press Freedom ‘Never Been So Threatened’


Two media rights groups have reported a sharp drop in press freedoms around the world in 2016.

The two groups note that much of the decline in media rights took place in democratic countries.

Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders say North Korea, Syria and China were the countries with the most restrictions on media in 2016. They noted that all three countries were among the worst offenders of press freedoms in recent years.

But what is changing is that democracies, such as the United States, also had a decline in press freedom last year.

Jennifer Dunham is the research director for Freedom House.

“One of the biggest trends we saw were declines in democracies, and this was one of the most disturbing trends we saw.”

Dunham also spoke about U.S. President Donald Trump. She noted that Trump attacked media organizations and individual reporters during the 2016 presidential campaign — and since his election.

Dunham said free speech is still valued in the United States.

“Right now, we are very concerned about the U.S., but we haven’t seen any kind of dramatic decline.”

Delphine Halgand is the North America director of Reporters Without Borders. She says Trump’s criticisms of the media are making leaders in other countries more willing to limit press freedoms.

“This hate speech contributed to disinhibit attacks on the media almost everywhere in the world, including in democratic countries.”

In its report last Wednesday, Reporters Without Borders said “media freedom has never been so threatened.” It said 62 percent of countries measured showed a decline in press freedom.

The report said the reductions in press freedoms were sharpest in places where “the authoritarian strongman model has triumphed,” such as Poland, Hungary and Turkey.

Media Rights Groups: Press Freedom 'Never Been So Threatened'

A woman shouts slogans outside the headquarters of the Cumhuriyet newspaper in Istanbul, Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016.

The report said the Middle East and North Africa continued to be the most dangerous area for journalists and media crews last year. Eastern Europe and Central Asia were also dangerous places for reporters.

Reporters Without Borders identified five countries with the highest level of freedom for journalists last year. They are Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands.

Laos, Pakistan, Sweden, Myanmar and the Philippines were the countries with the most improvements in press freedom.

I’m Caty Weaver.

VOA’s William Gallo and Chris Hannas reported on this story. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted their reports for VOA Learning English. George Grow was the editor.

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Words in This Story

decline – n. the process of becoming worse in condition or quality

trend – n.a general direction of change

dramatic– adj. sudden and extreme

disinhibit – adj. make (someone or something) less inhibited

inhibited – adj. unable to act in a relaxed and natural way

authoritarian – adj. expecting or requiring people to obey rules or laws : not allowing personal freedom

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