Media ‘never under so much threat’, says watchdog

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Media ‘never under so much threat’, says watchdog

Paris, Apr 26 (AFP) Press freedom has never been as threatened as it is now, in the “new post-truth era of fake news” after the election of US President Donald Trump, Reporters Without Borders warned today.

Its annual World Press Freedom Index warned of the “highly toxic” media-bashing of Trump’s election campaign and Britain’s Brexit referendum.

The situation is at “a tipping point,” it said bluntly.

Media freedom is being undermined by the rise in surveillance and of authoritarian strongmen across the globe, the watchdog said.

The US and Britain both slipped two places in the index to 43rd and 40th, according to the Paris-based monitoring group, known by its French initials RSF.

“Nothing seems to be checking” the erosion of liberty of the press in leading democracies, it said.

“Media freedom has never been so threatened.” Liberty of the press is in peril or in a “very serious situation” in 72 countries including Russia, India and China, it found.

“Attacks on the media have become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise. We have reached the age of post- truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms — especially in democracies,” the report said.

“Donald Trump’s rise to power… and the Brexit campaign were marked by high-profile media-bashing, a highly toxic anti-media discourse that drove the world into a new era of post-truth, disinformation and fake news,” it added.

Poland and Hungary came in for withering criticism in the report.

The nationalist government in Warsaw was accused of “turning public radio and TV stations into propaganda tools” and of trying to throttle independent newspapers.

“Media freedom has retreated wherever the authoritarian strongman model has triumphed,” it warned.

Turkey “swung over into the authoritarian regime camp” after the failed coup against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July, it said, adding bitterly that it “now distinguishes itself as the world’s biggest prison for media professionals.” Seven places ahead of Turkey, “Vladimir Putin’s Russia remains firmly entrenched in the bottom fifth of the index,” in 148th place, it added.

“The rate at which democracies are approaching the tipping point is alarming for all those who understand that, if media freedom is not secure, then none of the other freedoms can be guaranteed,” RSF Secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.

“Where will this downward spiral take us?” he asked.

The RSF index found that in the past year nearly two thirds of the countries had registered a deterioration in their situation, while the number of countries where the media freedom situation was “good” or “fairly good” fell by more than two per cent. (AFP)

This is published unedited from the PTI feed.