World Press Freedom 2024

Anna Triponel

June 7, 2024
Our key takeaway: 2024 was a difficult year for journalists, who faced violence, detention, prosecution and censorship from governments and political actors. There were incidents across the globe, with three-quarters of countries in the world receiving a score of “problematic,” “difficult” or “serious” in Reporters Sans Frontières’s (RSF) annual ranking. Among the five indicators that RSF uses to rank countries, the political indicator has fallen the most—as much as 7.6 points on average across the globe. This reflects a rise in disinformation campaigns and politically-driven censorship as a record proportion of the world votes in national elections this year—not a heartening sign for democracy. While the report highlights the primary role that governments have to protect journalists and safeguard freedom of the press under international human rights law, there are important implications for companies. Journalism is an important component of free and open civic space, transparency and accountability—all crucial factors that affect the operating environment where companies do business. A chilling effect on journalism can be an indicator (or even a cause) of increased likelihood of human rights abuses, and can warrant a need for companies to conduct enhanced due diligence in the countries where they operate, source, manufacture and sell. Companies: time for some joint leverage building and exercising to open up the space for voice!

Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF) published its 2024 World Press Freedom Index (June 2024):

  • Conditions for journalism are declining globally: In 2024, “conditions for practising journalism were satisfactory in only a quarter of the world's countries” and were “good” in an even smaller handful of countries clustered in Northern Europe. Other countries’ scores ranged from “problematic” to “very serious.” Regionally, the Maghreb-Middle East region performed the worst, with nearly half of its countries ranked as “very serious” for journalists and the same percentage as “difficult.” This was followed by the Asia-Pacific region, where 37.5% of countries were ranked “very serious” and 25% as “difficult.” In Africa, nearly half of all countries are ranked as “difficult.” Even in Europe-Central Asia, the top performing region, press freedom has declined in some of the top-ranking countries: Norway, ranked as first with “good” conditions has decreased in its score from the previous year, as has Ireland (now ranked eighth). Afghanistan, Syria and Eritrea have all dropped in the rankings to become the three worst countries for journalists in 2024. RSF reports that Syria and Eritrea in particular “have become lawless zones for the media, with a record number of journalists detained, missing or held hostage.”
  • Governments are failing to protect journalists: RSF observes that a “growing number of governments and political authorities are not fulfilling their role as guarantors of the best possible environment for journalism and for the public's right to reliable, independent, and diverse news and information.” There has been a “worrying decline” in respect for media independence and rising pressure from governments and other political actors on press freedom. In addition, governments are failing to step up to protect journalists in active conflict zones, like Gaza.
  • Elections are exacerbating threats to free press: RSF finds that the record number of elections in 2024 is correlated with increased threats and crackdowns against journalists, including election-related violence and prosecution against journalists in Nigeria, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Türkiye and Russia. Media censorship has especially increased in Eastern Europe in response to the conflict in Ukraine. In other countries, governments are restricting social media and internet to block certain media outlets surrounding elections. Other governments and political actors are using tools like AI to spread disinformation, including to discredit the work of journalists. In addition, “[I]n more than three quarters of the countries evaluated in the Index (138 countries), the majority of the questionnaire respondents reported that political actors in their countries were often involved in propaganda or disinformation campaigns. This involvement was described as ‘systematic’ in 31 countries.”

You may also be interested in

This week’s latest resources, articles and summaries.