With the introduction of social media, the concept of freedom of the press has become an easier and easier thing to discuss, research, understand, and more importantly witness. There are several states throughout the world that currently don’t have what many would consider true freedom of the press.
The best way to determine exactly how much press freedom a country has is by using the Press Freedom Index. The PFI is compiled from the Reporters Without Borders organization, which is an international non-profit group that works on various issues advocating for press freedom and related issues.
Using the PFI, one would easily be able to determine where each country stands in comparison to the rest of the world. In these rankings, Norway is in the 1st spot, the United States is 45th, and North Korea is in the last spot at 180th.
The PFI ranking for the United States has gone up and down various times throughout recent history, with it being at its lowest at the 53rd ranking in 2006 and its highest in 2002 with 17th place. This system isn’t entirely perfect because some countries don’t have any data, which impacts some of the ratings in PFI. For instance, in 2002, 41 countries were not in the original count, which brought the total number of countries recorded down to 139.
So why does the PFI matter? Press freedom has been a growing issue throughout the world, with some countries growing noticeably harsher in their restrictions and with press freedoms themselves getting less and less free. Some countries see themselves gradually dropping down the ranks. Hungary, for instance, fell from the 56th spot to the 73rd in just 5 years.
Additionally, the United States moved from the 32nd spot to the 45th, France has moved from the 37th to the 33rd, and the United Kingdom has shifted from the 29th to the 40th. Hungary’s movement has been attributed to what some people consider an increasingly totalitarian state, where those on top prefer to suppress the views of their opponents.
Interestingly, following the 2016 election, the United States has changed from the 41st in 2016, to the 43rd the following year, to the 45th last year. While generally, it’s safe to assume that the United States is a relatively free country in comparison to the rest of the world and their press freedom, it’s important to be aware of how these numbers are constantly changing, and how the political climate in each country leads to these changes.
Press freedom has been regarded as a critical and important human rights issue. It’s the right to criticize the government, the right to express one’s views publicly, and it tries to keep our officials honest. With an increasingly hostile political climate in modern America, where it seems as though a political scandal is right around the corner, maintaining the freedom of the press is an ongoing battle, both at domestically and abroad. We can never forget how, even though it may seem that we have restricted freedoms at times, other countries are under far more intense pressures that make true, honest news practically impossible.