New global study reveals UK now ranks below Jamaica, Latvia and Ghana for press freedom


The UK remains one of the worst counties in western Europe for freedom of the press, according to the latest report by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).  

Ranked 33rd in the list of 180 countries, Britain was placed behind Jamaica, Surinam, Ghana, Namibia, South Africa, Latvia and Lichtenstein in the advocacy group’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index.

Foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt appointed Amal Clooney as special envoy on media freedom earlier this month as part of a global campaign on reporting restrictions. Yet the UK is ranked lower than any of its western European neighbours except Italy.

“We should hold ourselves to a higher standard, and seek to be one of the best, not worst-performing countries in western Europe. Too often steps taken in the name of national security trample press freedom” said RSF’s UK director Rebecca Vincent.  

The US slipped three places to 48th in the world as a result of its increasingly hostile climate towards journalists. The report said that never before have US reporters been subjected to so many death threats or turned so often to private security for protection.

The latest annual report offered a bleak assessment of reporting freedoms around the world, with experts finding a decline in the number of countries regarded as safe for journalists. Only 24 per cent of the 180 countries were classified as “good” or “fairly good” for the press – a two per cent decline – while over three-quarters of the world is now considered “problematic”, “difficult” or “very serious” for media freedoms.  

RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said: “Democracy is in great danger. Halting this cycle of fear and intimidation is a matter of the utmost urgency of all people. If the political debate slides surreptitiously or openly towards a civil war-style atmosphere, in which journalists are treated as scapegoats, then democracy is in great danger.”

Norway is ranked first for press freedoms for the third consecutive year and Turkmenistan replaced North Korea in last place.  The study’s authors said the level of violence used in some parts of the world to persecute journalists who aggravate authorities “no longer seems to know any limits”. They said the Saudi columnist Jamal Khashoggi’s murder in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last October sent a “chilling message”.  

The Americas saw the greatest deterioration of any part of the world during the last year. Nicaragua fell 24 places from the previous year’s list due to attacks on journalists covering protests against President Daniel Ortega.

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