May 1, 2013

World Press Freedom Declined in 2012

WASHINGTON — The percentage of the world's population that has access to a free press declined during 2012, 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.

One hundred and ninety-seven countries were monitored. Of that total, 32 percent were "free;" 36 percent were "partly free;" and 32 percent were "not free."

In 2012, the press status in eight countries changed. Karin Karlekar, project director at Freedom House, said this marked the first time in history that all country changes were in a negative direction.

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.

  • Three countries — Greece, Mali and Israel — changed from "free" to "partly free"
  • Five countries — Egypt, Paraguay, Ecuador, Guinea-Bissau and Thailand — changed from "partly free" to "not free"

Norway and Sweden remain the most free in the world. Both have constitutions that guarantee press freedom. Newspaper readership is high, and Internet access is widely available and unrestricted.

The worst of the worst countries for press freedom were Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

North Korea saw a slight improvement in press freedom than in previous years, according to the report, as a result of increased attempts to evade censorship by smuggled DVDs to spread news and information.

Bette Bao Lord and Winston Lord have made a generous pledge in support of this annual program. Bao Lord is chairman emeritus of Freedom House and a Newseum trustee.

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.

For more information on Freedom House and the survey, visit www.freedomhouse.org.

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