A new report from Freedom House warns that the right to freedom of the press may be under attack in a number of democratic countries.
The report paints a dark picture showing former bastions of democracy turning on the media. The report does clarify that it is not generally through arrests or authoritarian suppression, but rather more nuanced attacks on the credibility of the press and professional journalists. The US, Serbia, Austria and Israel were specifically called out for attacks on the press by their leaders. The report highlights that among free countries, 19 percent (16 countries) have seen reductions in their press freedom score over the last five years. Freedom House recommends that policymakers stand up for freedom of the press, calling out violations in whatever way possible. Freedom House also encourages the use of social media as an alternate outlet for freedom of the press.
Interestingly, Freedom House notes gains in several developing nations. Freedom House acknowledges that the press helped to end the regimes of Omar al-Bashir and Abdelaziz Bouteflika. The report also recognizes gains in Malaysia, Ethiopia, Ecuador, Armenia and The Gambia in press freedoms. The report serves as a warning to Western democracies about the enchantment of right-wing populism but also provides a call to action and declares that press freedoms tend to come back even after the darkest regimes.