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2021 World Press Freedom Index shows “real journalism” is blocked in over 130 countries

The 2021 World Press Freedom Index, which compiles press freedom situation in 180 countries and territories annually by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has shown that journalism, the main vaccine against disinformation, is completely or partly blocked in over 130 countries.

These countries are classified as having “very bad,” “bad” or “problematic” environments for press freedom, and are identified in black, red or orange on the World Press Freedom map. The Index data reflects a dramatic deterioration in people’s access to information and an increase in obstacles to news coverage. The coronavirus pandemic has been used as grounds to block journalists’ access to information sources and reporting in the field.

“Journalism is the best vaccine against disinformation,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “Unfortunately, its production and distribution are too often blocked by political, economic, technological and, sometimes, even cultural factors. In response to the virality of disinformation across borders, on digital platforms and via social media, journalism provides the most effective means of ensuring that public debate is based on a diverse range of established facts.”

For such, Europe and the Americas (North, Central and South) continue to be the most favorable continents for press freedom, even though the Americas registered the biggest deterioration in its regional violations score (up 2.5%), according to the Index. Europe registered a sizeable deterioration in its “Abuses” indicator, with acts of violence more than doubling in the European Union and Balkans, compared with 17% deterioration worldwide.

In the Asia-Pacific region, the “censorship virus” spread beyond China, in particular to Hong Kong (80th), where the National security law imposed by Beijing seriously threatens journalists.

The Eastern Europe and Central Asia (EECA) region held onto its second-to-last position in the regional rankings, because of events in Belarus (down 5 at 158th), where journalists were subjected to an unprecedented crackdown in an attempt to cover up the massive street protests in response to the contested presidential election result.

Also, there has been no significant change in the Middle East & North Africa (MENA) region, which maintained last place in the regional rankings.

Hence, the RSF’s global indicator is only 0.3% lower in the 2021 Index than it was in 2020. But, the past year’s relative stability should not divert attention from the fact that it has deteriorated by 12% since this indicator was created in 2013.

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