Last week, Reporters Without Borders released the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, and increasingly it seems that Freedom of the Press is under attack globally. The report demonstrates “growing animosity towards journalists. Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies.”
This is on the heels of the most dangerous year ever recorded for journalists around the world. 2017 saw the imprisonment of countless reporters, photo journalists, political cartoonists, and editors in the press. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 18 journalists were murdered last year. That number doesn’t include journalists killed by crossfire or on dangerous assignments.
While the 2018 list offers up the usual suspects for worse offenders — North Korea ranks the worst at 180 beating out Syria and China at 177 and 176 respectively — the middle of the list is where the trends against free press are most obviously seen.
“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. The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters “enemies of the people,” the term once used by Joseph Stalin.”
Terrifyingly, the line between verbal assaults on the press and physical ones, is becoming thin. Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has warned that reporters “are not exempt from assassination.” Two of the 18 listed as murdered on the CJP’s database were in the Philippines. In Slovakia, the previous Prime Minister referred to journalists as “filthy anti-Slovak prostitutes” and “idiotic hyenas”, 2018 started off with the murder of a Slovakian reporter in his home in February.
The Washington Post wrote in an op-ed last week,
“Press Freedom is a sentinel in a democracy, not only in the watchdog and accountability role but also as an indicator of whether the democracy is healthy. The significance of this year’s World Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders, is not only that journalists face increasing obstacles but also that democracy in many places is ill.”
It is now more important than ever before for citizens to be the custodians for freedom of the press. In order to guarantee democracy at home and around the world, everyday individuals must stay vigilant monitoring the media so that journalists can not go missing without questions. So those responsible for intimidating, injuring, and disposing of reporters are called to bear the responsibility.