World's Media under Growing Pressure
CNN's Global Public Square
by Karin Deutsch Karlekar
Project Director, Freedom of the Press
At first glance, the rapidly changing ways information is produced, distributed and consumed should be signs of a golden age for the world’s press. A broader range of professionals as well as citizen journalists and bloggers are writing, broadcasting and posting information in a larger variety of ways. Their news is traveling faster and reaching larger audiences. But the world’s media is facing significant new pressures and growing dangers in almost every region of the world.
Our research for Freedom of the Press 2014, finds that as media evolve and innovate, governments’ attempts to restrict and suppress independent information have become no less innovative and widespread.
By our measures, which evaluate the environment journalists operate within as well as access to news and information, global press freedom has fallen to its lowest level in over a decade. Only 14 percent of the world’s population lives in countries where we rate the press as “Free,” while the vast majority live in “Partly Free” (42 percent) or “Not Free” (44 percent) media environments.
Key factors for the decline include governments’ attempts – particularly in authoritarian states or polarized political situations – to control news content. Some authorities rely on extreme measures such as the murder of journalists or blanket censorship. But a growing number also use newer, more subtle techniques – from physically harassing journalists covering protest movements, to restricting foreign reporters, to tightening constraints on online news outlets and social media. In a number of countries, private owners of media outlets exercise undue control by altering editorial lines or dismissing key staff after acquiring previously independent organizations.
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Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world, and advocates for democracy and human rights.