World Freedom Index 2020

  • Category
    Governance
  • Published
    29th Apr, 2020

Context

India has dropped two places on a global press freedom index to be ranked 142nd out of 180 countries in the annual Reporters Without Borders analysis.

About

  • Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the World Press Freedom Index is an important advocacy tool based on the principle of emulation between states. 
  • The Index is a point of reference that is quoted by media throughout the world and is used by diplomats and international entities such as the United Nations and the World Bank.
  • Because it is well known, its influence over governments is growing. Many heads of state and government fear its annual publication. 

What does the index measure?

  • The Index ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists.
  • It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country and region.
  • It does not rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking. 
  • Nor is it an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country or region.

Key-highlights of the index:

  • Among the nations with the top ranks are Scandinavian countries Norway, Finland and Denmark, while countries like North Korea (180), Vietnam (175) and Syria (174) were some of the lowest ranked.
  • India ranked better than its neighbours Pakistan (145) and Bangladesh (151), but worse than Sri Lanka (127) and Nepal (112).
  • Pakistan: Pakistan dropped three places from its 2019 ranks due to the influence of the military establishment under Prime Minister Imran Khan’s rule, which the report states “cannot stand independent journalism.
  • China: In this regard, China, ranked at 177, has also been critiqued for how Covid-19’s spread was facilitated by censorship and pressure on a whistleblower, yet the country continues to further tighten control over the media.
  • United States: With a rank of 45, the US improved three points since 2019 but arrests, physical assaults, public denigration and the harassment of journalists continued in 2019 under President Donald Trump’s administration.
  • North Korea: At the lowest rank of 180, North Korea scored the worst in terms of press freedom due to its leader Kim Jong-un’s totalitarian regime that has kept its citizens in a “state of ignorance”.
  • In the year 2020 so far, across the world, 10 journalists have been killed, 229 imprisoned and 116 citizen journalists imprisoned while one media assistant was killed and 14 media assistants imprisoned across the world.

Where does India stand?

  • Between 2013-14, India’s rank remained at 140, while it marginally improved to 133 and 136 in the subsequent years but dropped to 140 in 2019 following Prime Minister Modi’s resounding success in the Lok Sabha elections.
  • With no murders of journalists in India in 2019, as against six in 2018, the security situation for the country’s media might seem, on the face of it, to have improved.
  • However, at 142nd position, there have been constant press freedom violations.

The road ahead:

The coming decade will be decisive for the future of journalism, with the Covid-19 pandemic highlighting and amplifying the many crises that threaten the right to freely reported, independent, diverse and reliable information.

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