Special Report

The 26 Countries With the Worst Press Freedom

Presidential Press and Information Office / Wikimedia Commons

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.

Source: Mlenny / E+ via Getty Images

26. Russia
> Press freedom score in 2022: 38.8 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Sociocultural context; 51.3 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 27.0 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $12,195
> Population, 2021: 143,449,286

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25. Afghanistan
> Press freedom score in 2022: 38.3 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Political context; 44.6 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 17.0 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $369
> Population, 2021: 40,099,462

Source: mtcurado / iStock via Getty Images

24. Pakistan
> Press freedom score in 2022: 38.0 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Legal framework; 53.3 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 17.8 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $1,505
> Population, 2021: 231,402,117

Source: Lukas Bischoff / iStock via Getty Images

23. Kuwait
> Press freedom score in 2022: 37.9 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Safety; 73.4 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Economic context; 19.4 out of 100
> 2020 GDP per capita: $24,300
> Population, 2021: 4,250,114

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22. Venezuela
> Press freedom score in 2022: 37.8 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Sociocultural context; 47.5 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 31.2 out of 100
> 2014 GDP per capita: $15,976
> Population, 2021: 28,199,867

Source: mtcurado / iStock via Getty Images

21. Nicaragua
> Press freedom score in 2022: 37.1 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Sociocultural context; 49.8 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 27.7 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $2,046
> Population, 2021: 6,850,540

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20. Laos
> Press freedom score in 2022: 36.6 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Safety; 50.6 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Economic context; 20.9 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $2,536
> Population, 2021: 7,425,057

Source: Ibnul Asaf Jawed Susam / iStock via Getty Images

19. Bangladesh
> Press freedom score in 2022: 36.6 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Sociocultural context; 48.5 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 15.9 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $2,458
> Population, 2021: 169,356,251

Source: Angelo D'Amico / iStock via Getty Images

18. Oman
> Press freedom score in 2022: 36.0 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Safety; 59.8 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Legal framework; 18.4 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $19,509
> Population, 2021: 4,520,471

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17. Djibouti
> Press freedom score in 2022: 35.8 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Safety; 54.6 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Economic context; 16.1 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $3,150
> Population, 2021: 1,105,557

Source: Judd Irish Bradley / iStock via Getty Images

16. Honduras
> Press freedom score in 2022: 34.6 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Safety; 40.2 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Sociocultural context; 31.0 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $2,772
> Population, 2021: 10,278,345

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15. Saudi Arabia
> Press freedom score in 2022: 33.7 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Safety; 38.8 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Legal framework; 22.4 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $23,186
> Population, 2021: 35,950,396

Source: typhoonski / iStock via Getty Images

14. Bahrain
> Press freedom score in 2022: 31.0 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Sociocultural context; 39.7 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Economic context; 21.4 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $26,563
> Population, 2021: 1,463,265

Source: Givaga / iStock via Getty Images

13. Egypt
> Press freedom score in 2022: 30.2 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Sociocultural context; 44.3 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 17.6 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $3,699
> Population, 2021: 109,262,178

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12. Yemen
> Press freedom score in 2022: 29.1 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Legal framework; 38.6 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 11.5 out of 100
> 2018 GDP per capita: $702
> Population, 2021: 32,981,641

Source: CAEccles / iStock / Getty Images Plus via Getty Images

11. Palestine
> Press freedom score in 2022: 29.0 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Sociocultural context; 36.5 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Economic context; 15.8 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $3,664
> Population, 2021: 4,922,749

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10. Syria
> Press freedom score in 2022: 28.9 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Sociocultural context; 36.6 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 13.4 out of 100
> 2020 GDP per capita: $533
> Population, 2021: 21,324,367

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9. Iraq
> Press freedom score in 2022: 28.6 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Sociocultural context; 40.7 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 18.3 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $4,775
> Population, 2021: 43,533,592

Source: Daniel Avram / iStock via Getty Images

8. Cuba
> Press freedom score in 2022: 27.3 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Economic context; 39.8 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Legal framework; 15.8 out of 100
> 2020 GDP per capita: $9,500
> Population, 2021: 11,256,372

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7. Vietnam
> Press freedom score in 2022: 26.1 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Sociocultural context; 34.7 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 17.4 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $3,756
> Population, 2021: 97,468,029

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6. China
> Press freedom score in 2022: 25.2 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Sociocultural context; 33.3 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 15.8 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $12,556
> Population, 2021: 1,412,360,000

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5. Myanmar
> Press freedom score in 2022: 25.0 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Political context; 40.4 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 4.6 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $1,210
> Population, 2021: 53,798,084

Source: mtcurado / iStock via Getty Images

4. Turkmenistan
> Press freedom score in 2022: 25.0 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Safety; 35.7 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Economic context; 11.7 out of 100
> 2019 GDP per capita: $7,345
> Population, 2021: 6,341,855

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3. Iran
> Press freedom score in 2022: 23.2 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Political context; 30.7 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 13.6 out of 100
> 2021 GDP per capita: $4,091
> Population, 2021: 87,923,432

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2. Eritrea
> Press freedom score in 2022: 19.6 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Legal framework; 25.1 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Safety; 11.4 out of 100
> 2011 GDP per capita: $644
> Population, 2021: 3,620,312

Source: Omer Serkan Bakir / iStock Unreleased via Getty Images

1. North Korea
> Press freedom score in 2022: 13.9 out of 100
> Best area of press freedom: Legal framework; 22.8 out of 100
> Worst area of press freedom: Economic context; 0 out of 100
> GDP per capita: N/A
> Population, 2021: 25,971,909

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