May 1, 2012
World Press Freedom

David Kramer, president of Freedom House. (Maria Bryk/Newseum)

World Press Freedom Declined in 2011

WASHINGTON — The percentage of the world's population that has access to a free press declined for the second straight year during 2011, according to an annual survey released by Freedom House, which has documented media independence since 1980.

The results were announced May 1 at a ceremony at the Newseum. David Kramer, president of Freedom House, said the Middle East and North Africa had dramatic increases in press freedom.

"The newly opened media environments in countries like Tunisia and Libya, while still tenuous and far from perfect, are critical for the future of democratic development in the region and must be nurtured and protected," he said.

The Newseum's color-coordinated international map, located in the Time Warner World News Gallery, reflects the different levels of press freedom internationally as determined by Freedom House. Countries painted in green have a free press. Those in yellow have partial press freedom. The countries in red allow no press freedom.

In 2011, the press status in 10 countries changed:

  • One country — Tonga — changed from "Partly Free" to "Free."
  • Five countries — Egypt, Libya, Thailand, Tunisia and Zambia — changed from "Not Free" to "Partly Free."
  • Three countries — Chile, Guyana and Hungary — changed from "Free" to "Partly Free."
  • One country — Guinea — changed from "Partly Free" to "Not Free."

A new country was formed in 2011 and was added to the world map. South Sudan, which separated from Sudan, has a press that is "Partly Free."

Finland, Norway and Sweden's press were the most free in the world, based on those countries' well-established democratic system of governance.

For a second consecutive year, North Korea's press was ranked the world's worst. The country controls all aspects of life for its 25 million citizens — including access to news. All media outlets in North Korea are run by the state. Internet access is rare, and content is strictly controlled.

Freedom House is an independent watchdog organization based in Washington, D.C., that supports democratic change, monitors the status of freedom around the world and advocates for democracy and human rights.

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