Just published is the latest edition of the World Press Freedom Index. Compiled by ‘Reporters Without Borders’ annually since 2002, its purpose is to compare the level of press freedom enjoyed by journalists and media in 180 countries and territories.
The assessment methodology defines press freedom as “the effective possibility for journalists, as individuals and as groups, TO SELECT, PRODUCE AND DISSEMINATE NEWS AND INFORMATION IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST, INDEPENDENTLY from political, economic, legal and social interference, and without threats to their physical and mental safety.” The analysis is based on the evaluation of five indicators: the political context, legal framework, economic context, sociocultural context, and security.
(I couldn’t resist emphasising certain parts of this definition. Knowing the situation in our part of the UK, might there be merit in modifying this to include ‘IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST GENERALLY AND NOT JUST SECTIONAL ONES’?)
We learn that: ‘Northern Europe has the highest levels of media freedom worldwide and Norway was ranked first. It is followed by Denmark and Sweden in the top 3 while the top 5 is rounded off by Estonia and Finland.’
The UK ranked 24th is classed as in a ‘satisfactory situation’. Ireland ranked 6th is like the Nordics classed as ‘good’.
It’s interesting to compare and contrast rankings for the UK and Ireland on the five indicators:
Political environment – Evaluates the degree of support and respect for media autonomy, vis-à-vis political pressure from the state or from other political actors.
UK = 18th
Ireland = 9th
Economic environment – Evaluates economic constraints linked to governmental policies, to non-state actors (advertisers and commercial partners) and to media owners.
UK = 12th
Ireland = 8th
Legislative environment – Evaluates the legislative and regulatory environment for journalists (including the level of censorship, the level of impunity for violence against journalists, and the ability to protect sources).
UK = 48th (recall this is out of 180 countries!)
Ireland = 14th
Social environment – Evaluates social constraints based on such issues as gender, class, ethnicity and religion, and cultural barriers to questioning certain bastions of power or influence or covering certain issues, because it would run counter to the prevailing culture.
UK = 32nd
Ireland = 4th
Security environment – Evaluates the ability to identify, gather and disseminate news and information in accordance with journalistic methods and ethics, without unnecessary risk of bodily harm, psychological or emotional distress, or professional harm resulting from, for example, loss of one’s job, confiscation of professional equipment, or ransacking of media installations.
UK = 49th
Ireland = 2nd
No reason why an independent, progressive Scotland could not be more like the Nordic countries and Ireland … is there? They set the benchmark to which Scotland should aspire.