Khaled Desouki / AFP / Getty Images

Report: Press freedom experienced ‘drastic decline’ in 2014

Reporters Without Borders blames both states and nonstate actors for worsening state of media censorship in 2014

The latest edition of the annual World Press Freedom Index, released Thursday by the international organization Reporters Without Borders, paints a grim picture of media censorship around the globe. The group said it has found that had press freedom experienced a “worldwide deterioration" over the past year.

“Two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed for the 2015 World Press Freedom Index performed less well than in the previous year,” according to a news release accompanying the report. Every populated continent experienced an overall decline in press freedom ratings.

A map from the 2015 World Press Freedom Index, showing how countries performed on press freedom over the past year. (Photo via Reporters Without Borders)
Reporters Without Borders

Censorious regimes were partly blamed for the perceived downturn, but Reporters Without Borders also pointed to nonstate actors who “operate against or in parallel with established legal systems and feel bound only by whatever laws they created for themselves.” Groups such as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Boko Haram, which is active in Nigeria, were singled out for their attacks on journalists and attempts to seize local media infrastructure.

State efforts to control the press seemed to run hand in hand with regional instability. States facing internal or regional conflicts such as Syria, Russia, Israel and Hong Kong were among the primary offenders identified by the 2015 World Press Freedom Index.

The United States ranked 49th out of 180 countries on the index, falling three spots since last year. According to Reporters Without Borders, among the reasons for the fall were the number of journalists who had been “arbitrarily arrested” during their coverage of the past year’s protests in Ferguson, Missouri.

Egypt, where two Al Jazeera journalists have been temporarily released after more than 400 days in prison, pending a retrial, ranked 158th on the list. The country rose one spot from last year, when it was 159th.

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