Special Report

The Worst Countries for Press Freedom, According to Reporters Without Borders

One of the defining features of a free press is the ability to criticize government and bring institutional corruption to light. And just as press freedom is fundamental to democracy, it is also an existential threat to authoritarian regimes. 

In dozens of countries around the world, journalists and media outlets serve as little more than government mouthpieces – and often not by choice. In these places, dissent in the press is often met with intimidation and violence. 

Amid the ongoing war in Ukraine, Russia has jailed multiple journalists who are openly critical of the invasion. Earlier, in 2020, Iran executed a journalist who ran a popular anti-government website. These punitive actions impact more than just the journalists involved and have a chilling effect on all media outlets. (Here is a look at the most corrupt countries in the world.)

Using the 2022 World Press Freedom Index from the independent journalism advocacy group Reporters Without Borders, or RSF, 24/7 Wall St. identified the 26 countries with the least press freedom. We ranked countries by their index score, which RSF calculated using press survey data, reviewing 180 countries. We added GDP per capita and population data from the World Bank. 

The index is broken down into five distinct subcategories: political context, which measures independence from political pressure; legal framework, a measure of journalistic censorship, discrimination, and legal protections; economic context, which accounts for the overall media business environment; sociocultural context, which includes the press’ ability to cover certain issues that may run counter to the prevailing culture; and finally, safety, a measure of the press’ ability to report without fear of mental, physical, or personal harm. 

The countries with the least press freedom span the world from North America to Southeast Asia, and include both Russia and Iran. They are almost exclusively authoritarian and are generally poor. Though the countries on this list span the globe, the vast majority are located in Asia. (Here is a look at the countries the U.S. government doesn’t want you to go to.)

Click here to see the worst countries for press freedom, according to reporters without borders.

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