Watchdog journalism organization Reporters Without Borders released its annual World Press Freedom Index April 20, which saw a decline in press freedom in all parts of the world.
As the rankings were released, the organization’s secretary general Christophe Deloire warned Agence France-Presse that censorship was on the rise as numerous countries around the world cracked down on journalists and reporters.
“All of the indicators show a deterioration,” Deloire told AFP. “Numerous authorities are trying to regain control of their countries, fearing overly open public debate. Today, it is increasingly easy for powers to appeal directly to the public through new technologies, and so there is a greater degree of violence against those who represent independent information.”
The result, Deloire said, is a situation where governments prevent reporters from revealing information or publishing anything critical of the state, or using the media as a mouthpiece to promote their own interests.
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“We are entering a new era of propaganda where new technologies allow the low-cost dissemination of their own communication, their information, as dictated,” Deloire told AFP. “On the other side, journalists are the ones who get in the way.”
The 2016 rankings showed China, Syria, North Korea and Eritrea in the last four places out of 180, while Finland, the Netherlands and Norway took the top three spots. Deloire identified Latin America as an area of particular concern, with some of the biggest obstacles to press freedom including violence in Venezuela, Ecuador, Colombia and Honduras, corruption in Brazil and media concentration in Argentina.
In July 2015, Public Radio International pointed to rising violence against journalists in Latin America as an issue that particularly restricted press freedom in the area. Congressman Jeff Duncan, who chaired a subcommittee hearing on threats to press freedom in the Americas, said that many of the attacks originated in Mexico.
“When it comes to violence against the media, Mexico exists as one of the most dangerous countries for media with journalists often receiving extortion and kidnapping threats from government officials, criminal groups and other transnational gangs," he says. "In fact Mexico accounts for more than a third of all the killing of media workers and journalists in the hemisphere since 2009.”