Friday, November 17, 2017

Freedom of the Press in the Post-Truth Era

Since the 2016 U.S. presidential election, there has been a strong sentiment that all is not right in the mainstream media.  With President Donald Trump posting tweets like this: is not surprising that a substantial portion of Americans (and people of other nations) have become increasingly skeptical about what they see, hear and read.  What is missing in the debate about the mainstream media, however, is the degree of freedom that the press has to actually cover the events that impact our lives.  Thanks to the most recent report from Reporters Without Borders (RSF), we have a comparison of freedom of the press among all nations in the world, including the United States.

Let's start by looking at how Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calculates the degree of freedom of the press.    The degree of press freedom for the journalists of 180 nations is determined by using the responses of experts to a questionnaire created by RSF which measures the following qualitative parameters:

1.) pluralism - the degree to which opinions are represented in the media.

2.) media independence - the degree to which media functions independently of business, religion and political power and influence.

3.) media environment and self-censorship - analyzes the environment in which news providers operate.

4.) transparency - the degree of transparency of institutions and procedures that affect the production of news.

5.) legislative framework - the degree to which a nation's legislative framework governs news activities.

6.) infrastructure - the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news.

The questionnaire consists of 87 questions which have been translated into 20 languages.  

In addition to the qualitative analysis, RSF also takes a quantitative look at abuses or acts of violence against journalists and scores them on a scale of 0 to 100.

The combined qualitative and quantitative scores are combined, giving a nation a score ranging from 0 to 100 with 0 being the best possible score and 100 being the worst possible score.  This allows RSF to compare scores from one year to the next.  Two scores are calculated; ScoA is based on the first 6 qualitative indicators and ScoB is based on a combination of the first six indicators with the quantitative abuses indicator.  A nation's final score is the greater of the two scores; by using this score in its final ranking, RSF is able to prevent a nation that has a low degree of journalistic abuse from getting a high ranking simply because the media is centrally controlled (i.e. a lack of freedom of the press).

The rankings are as follows:

From 0 to 15 points - good (nations coloured white)
From 15.01 to 25 points - fairly good (nations coloured yellow)
From 25.01 to 35 points - problematic (nations coloured orange)
From 35.01 to 55 points - bad (nations coloured red)
From 55.01 to 100 points - very bad (nations coloured black)

Here is the map showing RSF's rankings:

Let's look at some specific rankings and scores:

1 - Norway - 7.60

2 - Sweden - 8.27

3 - Finland - 8.92

4 - Denmark - 10.36

5 - Netherlands - 11.28

16 - Germany - 14.97

19 - Australia - 16.02

22 - Canada - 16.53

29 - Spain - 18.69

39 - France - 22.24

40 - United Kingdom - 22.26

43 - United States - 23.88

45 - Taiwan - 24.37

63 - South Korea - 27.61

72 - Japan - 29.44

91 - Israel - 31.01

102 - Ukraine - 33.19

120 - Afghanistan - 39.46

135 - Palestine - 42.90

136 - India - 42.94

139 - Pakistan - 43.55

147 - Mexico - 48.97

148 - Russia - 49.45

155 - Turkey - 52.98

163 - Libya - 56.81

165 - Iran - 65.12

168 - Saudi Arabia - 66.02

176 - China - 77.66

180 - North Korea - 84.98

It is interesting to see that some of the nations that have been the beneficiaries of Washington's regime changing events have among the least free medias in the world.  It is also interesting to note that the United States has less freedom of the press than some of the former Iron Curtain nations like the Czech Republic, Latvia and Lithuania.

Let's close this posting with this quote from Reporters Without Borders:

"The 2017 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders (RSF) reflects a world in which attacks on the media have become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise. We have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms – especially in democracies." (my bold)

Remember that when you read, listen to or watch news coverage in whatever nation you are living in.  It's a sobering to think that we now live in a post-truth era, a fact that affects all of us no matter which side of the political spectrum that we may fall on.

1 comment:

  1. The idea of having a press that is free to cover the news is generally linked to the idea they will be fair because such a freedom generally comes with a degree of responsibility. News fed to us under a large degree of bias fails to meet this goal.

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