How Freedom of the Press Works


Press Freedom Around the World
Journalists arrange pictures of Candido Rios during a demonstration demanding justice at the headquarters of the Ministry of the Interior in Mexico City on Aug. 24, 2017. At the time Rios was the 10th journalist murdered in Mexico for the year. PEDRO PARDO/AFP/Getty Images

Press freedoms around the globe vary tremendously. According to Freedom House, a country may have a "free," "partly free" or "not free" press. Here's how they break down the world for 2017:

Free Press: Just 13 percent of the world's population lives with a free press, which Freedom House defines as a country "where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures." The U.S. would be an example of a country with a free press. Even though politicians may carp at the coverage they receive, no one is actively trying to shut down any media house or kill any journalists. The country with the most press freedom in 2017 was Norway. But countries as diverse as Jamaica, Latvia and Chile also are in this group.

Partly Free: Forty-two percent of the world's population lives in countries with a partly free press, which can mean many things depending on which nation is involved. Journalists may be free to print what they like. However, they may live in fear of being attacked or even murdered for exposing police corruption or drug trafficking (Mexico). Or they may have to deal with the government blocking internet services or halting printing presses in a restive region (India).

Not Free: Another 45 percent of the world's population lives in places where press freedom is severely restricted by the government or is just nonexistent. In Eritrea, a small east African country wedged between Ethiopia and Sudan, journalists have zero rights, and frequently wind up in prison without proper charges or trials.

"In Cambodia, the government regularly beats and jails anyone who opposes it, and it just shut down the most independent newspaper and 15 radio stations," says Freedom House's Repucci. In 2017, North Korea came dead last in Freedom House's annual ranking of countries and press freedoms. No one in the rogue state can report any news except what the government instructs them to say. Foreign journalists who attempt to report from inside the country are assigned "minders" who monitor their every move, including who they speak to.

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