The theme for the 25th celebration of World Press Freedom Day is “Keeping Power in Check: Media, Justice and The Rule of Law,” focussing on the importance of an enabling legal environment for press freedom, and gives attention to the role of an independent judiciary in ensuring legal guarantees for press freedom and prosecution of crimes against journalists..
Only 13% of the world population enjoys a free press, where coverage of politics is robust, the safety of journalists is guarateed, and state intrusion in media affairs is minimal. A partly free press to 42% of the world population. The remaining 45% lives in countries where a free press is non-existent (“New Report: Freedom of the Press 2017”). Political and economic transformations of some countries alongside their technological developments place new restrictions on press freedom.
Governments of these countries tend to implement restrictive laws and censorship on freedom of press, usually justifying these actions as a necessary tool for national security against terrorism. Apart from violating the right of freedom of expression, these restrictions place higher risks of violence, harassment and death on journalists.
Since the year 2000, annual incarceration of journalists has continued to increase globally, with many of them never seeing the inside of a courtroom. In 2017, 81 journalists died whilst committed to their jobs – 66% of them were murdered.
According to the 2017 World Press Freedom Index, violence and restrictions against media freedom has risen by 14% in the time period of 2012-2017. At the same time, since 2016, media freedom in countries where it was ranked as “good” decreased by 2.3%.
Among the countries that suffered the largest declines on the report’s 100-point scale in 2016 were Poland (6 points), Turkey (5), Burundi (5), Hungary (4), Bolivia (4), Serbia (4), and the Democratic Republic of Congo (4).
The world’s 10 worst-rated countries and territories were Azerbaijan, Crimea, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Syria and Turkmenistan.