This year, Africa ranked higher than the United States in the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) World Press Freedom Index.
Published on April 20, 2016, the rankings reveal that the U.S. finds itself on the 41st position; as opposed to last year, when it stood at the 49th spot. While it is higher in rankings than France, which is at the 45th position, it is lower than Canada, which ranks 18th.
Continent-wise, Europe has the freest media (scoring 19.8 points), and Africa comes in the second spot (36.9 points), surpassing the third spot Americas (37.1 points) for the first time. In the recent past, violence and hostility against journalists and reporters in the Americas have seen an increase. Eastern Europe/Central Asia (48.4 points) and North Africa/Middle East (50.8 points), where media faces restrictions, find themselves towards the bottom of the rankings.
As reported by CNN, countries likes Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea occupy the lowest rankings, and have thereby been considered the least free countries for journalists. Meanwhile, Finland, Netherlands and Norway find themselves on the top of the rankings list.
Tajikistan and Brunei slumped by 34 spots each, having to contend with the 150th and 155th positions respectively this year. Poland also witnessed a downslide of 29 spots, falling to the 47th spot.
In the U.S., one of the principal causes of concern for RSF has been the elections. Journalists and reporters have had their access to candidates restricted since the primaries began last summer. Another problematic concern was the arrests of journalists made during the Black Lives Matter protests in Baltimore and Minneapolis.
RSF US Director Delphine Halgand said, “There is still room for improvement in the country of the First Amendment.”
RSF secretary general Christophe Deloire said, “It is unfortunately clear that many of the world’s leaders are developing a form of paranoia about legitimate journalism. The climate of fear results in a growing aversion to debate and pluralism and a clampdown on the media by ever more authoritarian and oppressive governments.”
Since its publication in 2002, the World Press Freedom Index releases an annual ranking of the level of freedom of information in 180 countries across the globe. The factors considered in ranking include, according to the RSF.org, “pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, infrastructure, and abuses and acts of violence against journalists.”