RSF notes decrease in media freedom in the Americas and around the world

Most countries in Latin America and the Caribbean experienced a decrease in media freedom from 2014 to 2015, according to a recent index released by Reporters Without Borders (RSF for its acronym in French).

The Paris-based freedom of expression and journalist advocacy nonprofit organization released the 2016 World Press Freedom Index on April 20.

RSF noted that “media freedom declined in the Americas in 2015 because of mounting political tension in many countries fuelled by economic recession, uncertainty about the future and weakening solidarity between communities.”

Countries in the region with the worst rankings were Cuba (171) and Mexico (149). Those with the best rankings were Costa Rica (6), Jamaica (10) and Uruguay (20).

Of Costa Rica, the organization said “its legislation is very favourable for the media, it accords journalists proper recognition and it is the only Central American country not to suffer from corruption and its consequences on access to information.”

In its analysis of the region, RSF look at the main threats to media freedom that accounted for the scores of each country.

It singled out institutional violence in Venezuela and Ecuador, organized crime in Colombia and Central America, corruption in Brazil and media ownership concentration in Argentina.

The organization also noted the relationship between murdered journalists, corruption and drug trafficking in Mexico; cartel violence and conflict with the government in El Salvador; and limited access to information and legal action against journalists in Panama. The restrictive governments in Venezuela and Cuba were also called out.

For the index, the organization assigned points to a country depending on the “overall level of media freedom violations” in that place. As it explained, “the higher the figure, the worse the situation.”

To make the ranking, RSF said it uses quantitative data on abuses and violence against journalists along with survey responses to questions about pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency and news production infrastructure quality. Media professionals, lawyers and sociologists receive the questionnaire, according to the organization.

The decline in media freedom that the organization recorded in the Americas is not limited to that region. RSF said the index “shows that there has been a deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels.”

Between 2013 and 2016, the organization said there has been a 13.6 percent deterioration in the global indicator for press freedom.

Note from the editor: This story was originally published by the Knight Center’s blog Journalism in the Americas, the predecessor of LatAm Journalism Review.