Ireland placed in top category of latest World Press Freedom Index

Several larger nations are notably absent from the top group

Ireland placed in top category of latest World Press Freedom Index

Image: rsf.org

A new index ranking global press freedom has warned there is growing animosity towards journalists.

Ireland has dropped two places to 16th in latest World Press Freedom Index.

But the list, composed by Reporters Without Borders, also puts Ireland in the 'Good Situation' category.

Other countries in this top category include Germany, Denmark and Portugal.

However several larger nations are notably absent - such as the UK, US, Canada, France and Spain.

US/Canada

The index says: "Despite having strong constitutional protections to the contrary, the latest World Press Freedom Index findings on the US and Canada reveal two countries whose journalists and media workers face constant challenges to the very freedom to exercise their profession.

The United States' ranking fell from 43 to 45, "continuing its downward trend in the first year of Donald J Trump's presidency", the index adds.

In contrast, Canada has gained four places "due to steps taken to safeguard the confidentiality of journalists' sources."

The index notes that "In 2017, the 45th President of the United States helped sink the country to 45th place by labeling the press an ‘enemy of the American people’ in a series of verbal attacks toward journalists, attempts to block White House access to multiple media outlets, routine use of the term ‘fake news’ in retaliation for critical reporting, and calling for media outlets’ broadcasting licenses to be revoked.

"President Trump has routinely singled out news outlets and individual journalists for their coverage of him, and retweeted several violent memes targeting CNN."

Hostility towards the media

Overall, the group says the 2018 index "reflects 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."

"The climate of hatred is steadily more visible in the index, which evaluates the level of press freedom in 180 countries each year.

"Hostility towards the media from political leaders is no longer limited to authoritarian countries such as Turkey (down two at 157th) and Egypt (161st), where ‘media-phobia’ is now so pronounced that journalists are routinely accused of terrorism and all those who don't offer loyalty are arbitrarily imprisoned.

"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."

It adds: "The line separating verbal violence from physical violence is dissolving.

"In the Philippines (down six at 133rd), President Rodrigo Duterte not only constantly insults reporters but has also warned them that they "are not exempted from assassination."

"In India (down two at 138th), hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pay.

"In each of these countries, at least four journalists were gunned down in cold blood in the space of a year."

Image: rsf.org

Authors also note that in Europe, the region where press freedom is the safest, the regional indicator has worsened most this year.

Four of this year's five biggest falls in the index are those of European countries: Malta (down 18 at 65th), Czech Republic (down 11 at 34th), Serbia (down 10 at 76th) and Slovakia (down 10 at 27th).

"The European model's slow erosion is continuing", it says.

Coming last on the list is North Korea, at 180th place.

Read the full index here