Across the world, freedom of the press is entering a critical era. Several crises, from the coronavirus pandemic to a polarized public — have serious consequences for journalism and global press freedom.
Prosperous nations, which include some of the largest and oldest elected democracies in the world, tend to have greater press freedom than poorer countries. But this trend is far from consistent. The 50 richest countries in the world based on GDP per capita rank anywhere from best in the world, to among the worst 10 countries for freedom of the press.
To compare press freedom in the world’s richest countries, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed 2020 World Press Freedom Index scores in the 50 countries with the highest gross domestic product (GDP) per capita. In its annual press freedom index, the non-profit organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF) measures freedom of information throughout the world by combining survey-responses of media experts, as well as counts of acts of violence against journalists.
Elected leaders in many democracies, which are known for having free and independent media, have tried to silence critical outlets and promote those that offer favorable coverage. Even the president of the United States, one of the oldest democracies and a country famous for its fierce defense of its First Amendment that guarantees freedom of the press, has frequently demonised the news media as the “enemy of the people.” His rhetoric has given succor to political leaders in other countries who have passed bills making “fake news” illegal, and have framed articles they don’t like as bogus news.
When it comes to press freedom, one region stands out. Scandinavian countries continue to lead the world, and western Europe media remains mostly free despite a few wobbles. These two regions lead the way in another important area — these are countries that have come closest to true gender equality.