Political attacks on journalists are increasing across the globe, according to the annual World Press Freedom Index published by Reporters Without Borders.

These attacks include the detention of journalists, the spreading of misinformation and suppression of independent voices.

With more than half of the world’s population going to the polls in 2024, governments are failing to protect journalism, the organisation says.

The report comes as the BBC warned that over 300 of its journalists were now working in exile from their home countries, amid increasing attacks on their reporting.

“Some political groups fuel hatred and distrust of journalists by insulting them, discrediting them, and threatening them,” the organisation – known by its French acronym RSF – said.

RSF’s index ranks 180 countries on the ability for journalists to work without interference or threats.

Norway retained its spot at the top and “information desert” Eritrea came bottom, taking over from last year’s lowest-ranked nation, North Korea. The bottom 10 also includes China, Iran, Afghanistan, and Syria.

Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Finland, Estonia, Portugal, Ireland, Switzerland and Germany rounded out the top 10.

The UK rose three places to 23, with RSF criticising the dominant role held by News UK, Reach Plc and Daily Mail and General Trust in the market.

Authoritarian regimes across the Middle East have been tightening their grip on news and information with “increasing vigour”, according to the report.

Four of the world’s biggest jailers of journalists, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Iran, are in the region and continue to detain newsgatherers, according to the RSF report.

At least 100 journalists have been killed in Gaza between 7 October 2023 and 1 May 2024, according to the RSF.

The United States (55) has fallen 10 places ahead of elections due to increasing attacks on journalists from political players.

The report also criticised the “highly concentrated” model of US media ownership, adding that “many of the companies buying American media outlets appear to prioritize profits over public interest journalism”.

In Russia (ranked 162), RSF says the state continues a “crusade” against journalism with more than 1,500 journalists fleeing abroad since the illegal invasion of Ukraine in 2022.

The reports comes as the number of BBC World Service journalists forced to work in exile has doubled since 2020, reflecting press crackdowns in Russia, Afghanistan, and Ethiopia. Many face jail, death threats and harassment.

The RSF also warned about the increasing use of generative artificial intelligence and deepfakes, calling its use in spreading misinformation “disturbing”.

Source: bbc.com

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