Freedom of speech and press are important prerequisites for honest, ethical and transparent reporting of world issues and updates. However, journalists, media representatives and people of the press often end up under fire for simply doing their job.
That is why movements and days like, World Press Freedom Day, are essential to protect journalists and the press. This year, the theme for World Press Freedom Day is “Journalism under Digital Siege” to offer safety and advocate for press freedom in a world where the digitalization and the internet is taking over.
As said by the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, journalism is the vaccine against misinformation. Therefore, it is crucial to reinstate the trust between the public and journalists. And while there are countries who are taking major strides in supporting press freedom and journalism, there are still those who are lacking behind and trying to control and gag the media.
Here are the top 10 countries with the most press freedom worldwide:
For the fifth year in a row now, Norway is still holding the first place in terms of having the most press freedom. The country's support of free press was also showcased in November 2020 when it signed the Programme Cooperation Agreement with UNESCO, in which it promised 14 million Norwegian Krone to support the Multi-Donor Programme on Freedom of Expression and Safety of Journalists.
Even though Finland comes right in second place, journalists there seem to have been at the receiving end of hate speech. However, governments and officials have been putting in efforts to protect the media from online hate speech and reignite the trust of the public in journalists.
While the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in major destruction on different fronts, it seems to have done Sweden a favor as interest in the news increased. As the first country across the globe to adopt a press freedom law back in 1766, journalism and factual reporting of the news are integral part of the society as a whole.
In fourth place is Denmark, yet another Nordic nation which comes to show the significant success their countries are making in press freedom. One of the earliest countries to also adopt freedom of speech and press, Denmark introduced an article in 1849 that states that all individuals have the right to express themselves.
5. Costa Rica
From the Nordic nations to Latin America, Costa Rica is the top ranking country in freedom of press in Latin America. Despite the fact that it has several neighboring countries with high levels of corruption and crimes against the media, Costa Rica is quiet on the other end of the spectrum. With its respect and support for human rights and freedom of press, it works on limiting plagiarism and supporting journalism.
As part of the Netherlands’ constitution, anyone in the country has the right to practice freedom of speech and press as long as no laws are broken. Nevertheless, it is reported that journalists still have limited access to state information and are still attacked by both hate speech and violence.
Titled as “Almost flawless” by Reporters Without Borders, Jamaica is considered to be one of the best places for journalism to practice freedom of speech. However, nothing is ever perfect, and so lockdowns implemented by the country were considered to be against journalism earlier during the pandemic.
8. New Zealand
Coming in 8th place is New Zealand, a country well known for its tolerance and press freedom. And while journalists are not usually attacked or assaulted, it is reported that New Zealand’s problem with press freedom is an economic one. With media outlets closing sites to cut down cost, the ability to have enough press coverage can be threatened.
Despite the fact Portugal has been suffering from economic issues that were further deepened by the pandemic, it is still considered to be one of the top countries in freedom of press.
As one of the countries whose legislations and governments support freedom of press, Switzerland is among the top 10 countries with highest tolerance for press freedom. However, with the diverse nature of the country, the media and journalism sector is struggling to make ends meet financially. And therefore many journalists and press employees are losing their jobs with the closure of newspapers and media outlets.
Several leading countries are making significant improvements when it comes to freedom of speech and press, however, there are still many countries laying at the other end of the spectrum.
Here are the 10 most censored countries worldwide:
1. Eritrea - Rank 180
Considered to be the most censored country, the media in Eritrea has no rights. Officials have even arrested several journalists in 2001, among them was Dawit Isaak, a journalist with Swedish and Eritrean dual citizenship. These journalists have been in jail for around 20 years making them the longest detained journalists in the world for doing their jobs.
⚡RSF brings “crime against humanity” case in Sweden against #Eritrea’s president.— RSF (@RSF_inter) October 22, 2020
Their victim, Dawit Isaak, who has Swedish and Eritrean dual nationality, is the world’s longest held journalist.https://t.co/SBoTqLHy6b#FreeDawit pic.twitter.com/kOGh7cYuyG
2. North Korea - Rank 179
One of the highly censored countries, North Korea has a strong grip over media coverage that the public only has access to highly censored online news. And just like Turkmenistan, the country claimed to have zero COVID-19 cases.
3. Turkmenistan - Rank 178
Turkmenistan is one of the most closed off countries, where journalists live under constant threat. Freedom of press there is nearly nonexistent to the point where even online news is monitored and only reports that show a positive image of the country are accessible.
4. China - Rank 177
As mentioned by RSF, China is still the world’s biggest jailer of journalists. The country’s control over the news has even extended to utilizing technology to censor online news.
5. Djibouti - Rank 176
Freedom of press in Djibouti is even worse than one can imagine with no independent media outlets available in the country. The strict nature of censoring the press has also resulted in journalists being attacked and arrested. Not only that but officials are also trying to limit the access to social media.
6. Vietnam - Rank 175
Despite the fact that freedom of press is part of the country’s constitution, journalists in Vietnam live in constant fear of being attacked and oppressed.
7. Iran - Rank 174
It is reported that since the 1979 revolution, around 860 journalists have suffered tremendously because of the media oppression in Iran. With the government’s tight grip on the news being shared, people there struggle to have access to real factual news.
8. Syria - 173
The heightened turmoil and war that Syria has been going through for more than a decade now has made it one of the most censored countries worldwide. With journalism and factual reporting posing a threat to conflict and crimes against humanity happening in the country, journalists are either arrested, violated or even killed.
9. Laos - 172
In Laos, where the Lao People's Revolutionary Party (LPRP) has complete hold of the media, people are no longer having faith in official media due to the high level of restrictions. As a result, most people are turning to the internet and online media outlets but LPRP also monitors activities there and asks users to identify themselves.
10. Cuba - 171
Considered to be one of the most censored countries in Latin America, Cuba imposes strict control over their journalism. Even foreign journalists who show the country in a “negative” image aren’t allowed to report.