The UK Press: Number 40 Still

The 2018 ‘World Press Freedom Index’, compiled by an organisation called ‘Reporters without Borders’, has just been published (https://rsf.org/en/ranking), with Britain once again coming far down the list – at number 40, to be precise. That’s out of 180, with North Korea at the bottom. I commented on last year’s report here: https://bernardjporter.com/2017/04/30/press-freedom/. Again, the Scandinavian countries (together with the Netherlands) come top of the rankings, which is no doubt why my Dagens Nyheter makes such a splash about it today. I don’t suppose the Murdoch press or any of our right-wing propaganda sheets have highlighted it so much, although to be honest I haven’t checked.

They would probably dispute Reporters without Borders’ methodology, which Wikipedia describes thus:

The report is partly based on a questionnaire which asks questions about pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and infrastructure. The questionnaire takes account of the legal framework for the media (including penalties for press offences, the existence of a state monopoly for certain kinds of media and how the media are regulated) and the level of independence of the public media. It also includes violations of the free flow of information on the Internet. Violence against journalists, netizens, and media assistants, including abuses attributable to the state, armed militias, clandestine organisations or pressure groups, are monitored by RSF staff during the year and are also part of the final score. A smaller score on the report corresponds to greater freedom of the press as reported by the organisation. The questionnaire is sent to Reporters Without Borders’s partner organisations: 18 freedom of expression non-governmental organisations located in five continents, its 150 correspondents around the world and journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists.

Looking through that list, it will not be difficult to pick several categories in which the British mainstream media are likely to have picked up their low scores, among them pluralism, self-censorship and independence. But Britain’s poor showing must surprise many of those who pride themselves on our having a distinctively ‘free press’, compared for example with Costa Rica, Samoa and Ghana – all several places above her; which is our Press’s rationale for opposing (and in the end killing off) ‘Leveson Part 2’ (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leveson_Inquiry). I imagine that for Murdoch and Co.  ‘freedom’ means what it does for most ideological capitalists: market freedom of the rich to buy up and control – in this case – the media. Against which, of course, some of us hope that the social media, now rapidly ousting ‘print’ journalism, might prove a corrective. I have to say, I hae me doots.

In Britain at present the print and broadcast media are two of the the main obstacles to a rational and informed democracy. It may be the same in the USA; which appears no-where in the top 40, and so presumably is even worse than ours. Trump’s new French friends, by the way, are at No. 33.

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One Response to The UK Press: Number 40 Still

  1. Pingback: Brexit Blues | Porter’s Pensées

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