2024 World Press Freedom Index indicates that journalism is under political pressure

May 3, 2024

According the 2024 World Press Freedom Index, press freedom around the world is being threatened by the very people who should be its guarantors – political authorities. 

Released today on World Press Freedom Day, the annual report produced by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) shows that it is the political indicator that has fallen most of the 5 rankings used to compile the report, registering a global average fall of 7.6 points.

Governments fail to protect journalism

According to the Index, a growing number of governments and political authorities are not fulfilling their role as guarantors of the best possible environment for journalism and for the public’s right to reliable, independent, and diverse news and information. 

RSF sees a worrying decline in support and respect for media autonomy and an increase in pressure from the state or other political actors.

At the international level, the report highlights that this year is notable for a clear lack of political will on the part of the international community to enforce the principles of protection of journalists, especially UN Security Council Resolution 2222. The war in Gaza has been marked by a record number of violations against journalists and media since October 2023. More than 100 Palestinian reporters have been killed by the Israel Defence Forces, including at least 22 in the course of their work.

Occupied and under constant Israeli bombardment, Palestine is ranked 157th out of 180 countries and territories surveyed in the overall 2024 World Press Freedom Index, but it is ranked among the last 10 with regard to security for journalists (see the 2024 World Press Freedom Index security ranking).

Journalism vs disinformation in a super election year

While 2024 is the biggest election year in world history, 2023 also saw decisive elections, especially in Latin America, where elections were won by persons who boast of being predators of press freedom and media diversity, above all Javier Milei in Argentina (down 26 at 66th), who has shut down the country’s biggest news agency in an action of disturbing symbolism.

Obstructing journalists’ work

Elections are often accompanied by violence against journalists, as in Nigeria (112th) and the Democratic Republic of Congo (123rd). The military juntas that seized power in coups in the Sahel, especially Niger (down 19 places at 80th), Burkina Faso (down 28 at 86th) and Mali (down one at 114th), have constantly tightened their grip on the media and obstructed journalists’ work. Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s reelection in Türkiye is also a source of some concern. Ranked 158th, the country has continued to lose points in the Index. 

Absence of regulation around AI

In the absence of regulation, generative AI’s use in the arsenal of disinformation for political purposes is disturbing. Deepfakes now occupy a leading position in influencing the course of elections. This was evidenced by the audio deepfake of the journalist Monika Todova during the parliamentary elections in Slovakia (down 12 at 29th), one of the first documented cases of this kind of attack on a journalist with the aim of influencing the outcome of a democratic election.

Government interference 

Many governments have stepped up their control over social media and the Internet, restricting access, blocking accounts, and suppressing messages carrying news and information. Journalists who say what they think on social media in Vietnam (174th) are almost systematically jailed. As well as detaining more journalists than any other country in the world, the government in China (172nd) continues to exercise strict control over information channels, implementing censorship and surveillance policies to regulate online content and restrict the spread of information deemed to be sensitive or contrary to the party line.

Some political groups fuel hatred and distrust of journalists by insulting them, discrediting them, or threatening them. Others are orchestrating a takeover of the media ecosystem, both state-owned media that have come under their control, as well as acquisitions of privately-owned media by allied businessmen. Giorgia Meloni’s Italy (46th) – where a member of the ruling parliamentary coalition is trying to acquire the second biggest news agency (AGI) – has fallen five places this year.

Political propaganda 

Political groups often serve as channels for disseminating disinformation campaigns or even instigating them. In more than three quarters of the countries evaluated in the Index (138 out of 180 countries and territories), most of the Index questionnaire respondents reported that political actors in their countries were often involved in propaganda or disinformation campaigns. This involvement was described as “systematic” in 31 countries.

Media censorship

In Eastern Europe and Central Asia, media censorship has intensified in an astonishing mimicry of Russian repressive methods, especially in Belarus (down 10 at 167th), Georgia (103rd), Kyrgyzstan (120th), and Azerbaijan (down 13 at 164th). Kremlin influence has reached as far as Serbia (down seven at 98th), where pro-government media carry Russian propaganda and the authorities threaten Russian exile journalists. Russia (162nd), where Vladimir Putin was unsurprisingly reelected in 2024, continues to wage a war in Ukraine (61st) that has had a big impact on the media ecosystem and journalists’ safety.

Best and worst

Even the trio at the top of the World Press Freedom Index has contributed to the fall in the overall political indicator. Despite retaining its No. 1 position, Norway is among the countries that has suffered a fall in its political score. Ireland (8th), where politicians have subjected media outlets to judicial intimidation, has ceded its position as European Union leader to Denmark (2nd), which is followed by Sweden (3rd). 

The three Asian countries at the bottom of last year’s Index – Vietnam, China and North Korea – have ceded their positions to three countries whose political scores have plummeted. They are Afghanistan (down 44 places in the political ranking), which has persecuted journalists incessantly since the Taliban recovered control; Syria (down eight political places); and Eritrea (down nine political places), which is now last in both political and general rankings. The last two countries are lawless zones for the media, with record numbers of journalists detained, disappeared or held hostage.

You can read the 2024 World Press Freedom Index in full, including the state of press freedom in the world’s five regions, here.

The role of the World Media Group is to champion the values of trusted international journalism and we’re proud to support RSF and the important work it does to protect the freedom of the press around the world. Today on World Press Freedom Day, we continue to call for the release of Wall Street Journalist reporter Evan Gershkovich, wrongfully detained by Russia, and support the journalists around the world who are threatened, harassed and detained for simply doing their jobs.