Special Report

How Free Is the Press in the World's Richest Countries

The recent edition of the World Press Freedom Index details the ruinous effects of “news and information chaos” and the impact of a globalized and “largely unregulated online information space” that fuels fake news and propaganda. The index also shows that national prosperity does not necessarily equate with press freedom.

To identify how free the press is in the world’s richest countries, 24/7 Wall St. reviewed the 2022 edition of the World Press Freedom Index, published by Reporters Without Borders. Out of the 180 countries included in the index, 24/7 Wall St. considered only the 50 richest countries based on gross domestic product per capita from the World Bank. The scores from last year and each country’s best and worst area of press freedom also come from the report.

Nordic countries — Finland, Iceland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden — rank near the top of the index and continue to serve as models where freedom of the press flourishes. All but Iceland have “good” scores (between 85 to 100), the highest level in the index. The three Low Countries — Belgium, the Netherlands, and Luxembourg — are in the top 20.

Five of the 10 most affluent nations in the world — Hong Kong, Brunei, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Singapore — have freedom of the press scores ranked as “difficult” (between 40 to 55), the second-lowest ranking.

Four of the five countries on the list rated “very serious” — the lowest ranking, scoring 0 to 40 — are on the Arab Peninsula; the fifth one is Russia. The freedom of the press score for Kuwait (21) plunged the most of any country on our list, tumbling from 65.6 in 2021 to 37.9 in 2022. “The government exercises a significant degree of control over information, and freedom of expression remains limited,” said the report. 

Former Eastern Bloc countries’ freedom of the press scores fell in Hungary, Romania, and Poland. Russia’s score plunged as well. Its invasion of Ukraine at the end of February was preceded by a propaganda barrage. Since then, the Russian government has seized control of news and information by establishing wartime censorship, blocking the media, and harassing journalists. (Russia is also on the list of the most corrupt countries in the world.)

Hong Kong’s score plummeted as China, one of the world’s most repressive countries, imposed  its authoritarian muscle to repress press freedom in Hong Kong.

The United States’s score also fell, from 76.1 in 2021 to 72.7 in 2022, placing it in the “satisfactory” range of 70 to 85 points. The U.S. ranking also dropped from 29th highest among the 180 countries reviewed to 42nd. The worst area of press freedom in the U.S. in economy. (Here are America’s cities with the widest income gaps.)

The index evaluated countries in five areas of context: political, legal framework, economy, sociocultural, and safety. Of those categories, 36 of the 50 countries listed scored the worst in economy. Nations scored the best in the sociocultural and safety areas.

Click here to see how free the press is in the world’s richest countries

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