URGED ON BY INFLUENTIAL figures such as U.S. President Donald Trump, a growing number of world leaders are openly encouraging hostility toward the news media as journalists across the globe face increasing animosity for their work, according to a report by an international press watchdog organization.
That is the conclusion from the 2018 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders, or RSF. The annual ranking, released on Wednesday and which also showed a big decline in freedom of speech across the world, dropped the U.S. two positions from its 2017 position, to No. 45 overall.
Trump, who is just 15 months into his presidency, has popularized the phrase “fake news” as a reference to unflattering news reports. The phrase has become widely used by many of his supporters and, according to the RSF report, among a growing number of world leaders.
“More and more democratically elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion,” RSF said in a statement accompanying the release of its rankings. “A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters as ‘enemies of the people,’ the term once used by (former Soviet leader) Joseph Stalin.”
Much like in 2017, European nations dominate the RSF rankings for having the most press freedom. Norway ranked No. 1 and Sweden finished No. 2 in the list. The Netherlands, Finlandand Switzerland rounded out the top five nations. Canada rose four positions to No. 18 overall and was classified by RSF as having a “fairly good” press freedom climate.
Of the 180 nations assessed, North Korea finished last, followed by Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Syria and China.
By region, RSF ranked Europe as having the greatest press freedom, followed by the Americas, Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe/Central Asia and the Middle East/North Africa.
The Middle East and North Africa experienced the biggest decline in freedom of speech by region in the world, as countries in the region struggle with war and political clashes.
“Armed conflicts, terrorism charges against independent journalists and media, and growing online surveillance and censorship make reporting extremely dangerous for the region’s journalists” according to the RSF report, which cited ongoing wars in Syria and Yemen, and the government use of terrorism charges in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain as factors imperiling journalists.