UK drops in World Press Freedom Index following surveillance and anti-espionage threats : The Register

And Trump’s ‘fake news’ bleating harms US tradition of defending free press

The UK has dropped two places on the World Press Freedom Index following the passing of the Investigatory Powers Act and threats to pursue journalists reporting on national security.

The World Press Freedom Index for 2017 was published today by Reporters Without Borders (Reporters Sans Frontiers), the Paris-based international non-profit NGO to promote and defend the freedom of the press, which has consultant status at the United Nations.

Of 180 countries, the UK — the land of John Milton, who wrote Areopagitica* — has dropped to 40th, being pipped by France, Chile, and even South Africa.

Despite the nation’s Parliamentary history and cultural commitment to the freedom of speech, the UK has slipped further behind its neighbours who continue to populate the top spots, where Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark and the Netherlands occupy the top five positions respectively.

Ireland has dropped five positions to 14, though remains highly ranked, while the regular offenders are at the bottom of the list. North Korea, Eritrea, China and Cuba have consistently been among the lowest rankings in the previous years of the Index.

Among the issues with the UK’s respect for press freedom was the Law Commission’s plans to target journalists with a punitive new official secrets law, though these have stalled since The Register revealed the lack of process behind the proposals.

Open Rights Group executive director Jim Killock responded to the rankings drop: “Extensive surveillance powers are threatening investigative journalism and freedom of expression in the UK. In just four years, the UK has fallen ten places in the World Press Freedom Index, a deeply worrying trend that needs to be addressed.

“The government failed to protect journalists when it passed the Investigatory Powers Act. Now, the Law Commission has proposed to send them to prison if they so much as handle official data. This comes at a time when we must be able to hold the Government to account over its vast surveillance powers. Mass surveillance chills freedom of expression and undermines democracy.”




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