Attacks on the Press | Censorship | Reports

2020 World Press Freedom Index Warns of the Impact of Coronavirus on Free Expression

Jair Bolsnaro
razil’s President Jair Bolsonaro speaks with journalists after a ceremony at the Planalto Palace in Brasilia, Brazil April 25, 2019. REUTERS/Adriano Machado

Each year, the global press advocacy group Reporters Without Borders releases its“World Press Freedom Index,” a ranking based on the safety of journalists in 180 countries and territories around the world.

Each country is scored based on quantitative data drawn from the number of abuses and acts of violence against journalists, as well as qualitative data drawn from a survey sent out to journalists, media lawyers, researchers, and other media specialists in each respective country. The countries are then ranked using those scores.

This year’s report warns that the coronavirus has enabled governments across the globe to pass laws that broaden state surveillance and restrict freedom of expression.

“The public health crisis provides authoritarian governments with an opportunity to implement the notorious ‘shock doctrine’ – to take advantage of the fact that politics are on hold, the public is stunned and protests are out of the question, in order to impose measures that would be impossible in normal times,” Reporters Without Borders Secretary-General Christophe Deloire said in a statement.

See also: Why Protest Sites and the Border Remain Risky Places to Report

This year, the United States is ranked at 45, up three slots from 2019. The modest increase doesn’t necessarily suggest that press freedom in the United States has improved as the index is relational.

The United States’ ranking is still substantially below other countries with democratic governments, including Germany (11), Canada (16), Australia (16), and the United Kingdom (35).

The report singles out President Donald Trump and Brazil’s President Jair Bolsnaro for their repeated attacks on the press.

“The democratically elected presidents of two countries, Donald Trump in the United States (up 3 at 45th) and Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil (down 2 at 107th), continue to denigrate the media and encourage hatred of journalists in their respective countries,” the report says.

2020 Index Report