For the second year running, Denmark took fourth place on the RSF index, despite it being a year in which the global situation relating to press freedoms has worsened in nearly two thirds of the 180 countries in the Index.
The authors of the index cited an article in Denmark’s 1849 constitution which guarantees freedom of speech and says that “censorship and other preventive measures can never again be introduced,” pointing to the publication of the highly controversial Mohammed cartoons by newspaper Jyllands-Posten in 2005 as an example of this press freedom.
There was no mention in the index of Denmark’s 2013 Freedom of Information Law (Offentlighedsloven), which enables parliament to keep public records inaccessible to parties, including the press, with 'no part' in the cases in question.
Denmark’s ranking was bettered only by three other Nordic countries, with Norway taking top spot, followed by Sweden and Finland.
Image: Reporters Without Borders
But the number of countries where the media freedom situation was ‘good’ or ‘fairly good’ has fallen by 2.3 percent.
The Index “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,” it said.
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Press freedom has retreated wherever an authoritarian model has triumphed, it added. While the decline is not new, “what is striking in this year’s Index is the scale and the nature of the violations seen”.
Even in Europe, where the media are generally the most free, the situation has declined, particularly in Poland and Hungary.
The US came 43rd, with the report authors pointing to US President Donald Trump’s verbal attacks towards journalists and attempts to block certain media outlets from White House access.
The UK was also criticized over its adoption of the Investigatory Powers Act which “lacks sufficient mechanisms to protect whistleblowers, journalists and their sources”.
“Donald Trump’s rise to power in the United States and the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom were marked by high-profile media bashing, a highly toxic anti-media discourse that drove the world into a new era of post-truth, disinformation, and fake news,” said the report.
Published since 2002 the World Press Freedom Index measures indicators including pluralism, media independence and respect for the safety and freedom of journalists.