These days, everyone subconsciously absorbs tons of information on their phone every day, and it is important that the news we receive be correct, accurate and up to date. However, there are regions of the world that push press regulation too far, into press censorship. Restricting what the people see and how they see it has been a staple of how governments deal with their people ever since they realized that information is power. The last few years have seen a rise in press censorship and media crackdowns across the world, a worrying trend that may prove disastrous in the future. All data in this article is collected from the World Press Freedom Index.
At the top of the rankings, to no one’s surprise, rest the Scandinavian and Baltic nations, such as Sweden, Norway, Estonia, etc. These countries have a truly free press, with little to no government intervention in what they publish, and the rest of their democracies thrive due to this. A free press is one of the strongest signs of a healthy democracy. Other countries in this upper echelon include Ireland, Costa Rica, Portugal, etc.
Looking further down, we can see at least two pleasant surprises. Moldova and Bhutan are countries that have drastically improved their press freedom scores, with Moldova rocketing from 89 to 40 and Bhutan going from 65 to 33. This is a good sign, that undeveloped countries with histories of poor press freedom are advancing in their press transparency, and that the downward spiral is not a universal one.
However, there are multiple countries that either already has very poor press freedom, or are dangerously backsliding in the rankings. Countries like Hungary, which have recently been shifting towards authoritarianism despite being in liberal institutions such as the EU and Nato, are declining rapidly in press freedom, and this has led to the degradation of democracy in the country. However, the most recent and infamous decline in press freedoms is in Russia. Ever since the illegal invasion of Ukraine in which Russia has conducted a poorly planned and devastating military campaign, Russia has tightened its interior access to information massively, removing major social media platforms, censoring words such as “war” or “genocide”, and increasing propaganda efforts through any means necessary.
If there is anything to get out of this. It is that knowledge is power, and there are governments around the world who engage in illegal and/or immoral activity, and will often try to hide it to avoid the consequences of their actions, and the fewer people know, the less danger they are in. A free press will allow the public to inform themselves, to go deeper into the topics affecting their country, and hopefully try to change things for the better. A free press means that governments and politicians are held accountable for what they say and what they do, and can inform the public as to whether they should remain in office or not. A free press is the root of the solution to so many of the issues we are dealing with today and therefore, its protection and progression are imperative.