Map above: World Press Freedom Index 2021 from Reporters Without Borders (white = “good” situation)
Once again four Nordic countries top the global list of press freedom. But in seven of ten countries in the world, free journalism is blocked, a situation worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Reporters Without Borders has published its annual index of the press freedom situation in 180 countries. The results show intensified attacks on free and independent journalism.
Norway is number one
For the fifth year running, Norway is ranked the world’s best on press freedom. Finland takes the second position, while Sweden has climbed one step to the third position, passing Denmark, which slipped down to fourth position. Iceland is ranked number 16 and is classified to have a "fairly good" situation.
"The 2021 Index demonstrates the success of these Nordic nations’ approach towards upholding press freedom", writes Reporters Without Borders in its general analysis.
Despite the positive results, the country reports also draw attention to problems. Mentioned is, for example, Norwegian media’s complaints about lack of access to state-held information concerning the pandemic, and in Finland, the presence of disinformation and threats against journalists on social platforms.
Only 12 countries classified as “good”
Worldwide, the number of countries where press freedom is classified as "good" has decreased from 14 to 12 countries. This after Germany and Estonia fell out of the top category, changing their classification to "fairly good" instead. That Germany (now ranked 13th) slipped down is due to dozens of journalists being attacked by supporters of extremist and conspiracy theory groups in connection with protests against coronavirus restrictions in 2020.
Europe less safe
Despite being one of the world's safest regions for journalists, Europe is experiencing growing threats to press freedom. Last year, several countries saw the number of attacks and arbitrary arrests against journalists increase – for example, in Hungary (92th) and Serbia (93th), which are classified as having a "problematic” situation for press freedom, and Germany (13th) and France (34th), where the situation otherwise is considered "satisfactory".
Journalism blocked in 132 countries
Journalism is totally blocked or seriously impeded in 73 countries and constrained in 59 others, which together make up 132 countries (over 70% of the countries evaluated). In many cases, the pandemic was used as a reason to prevent journalists from accessing information sources and opportunities to report in the field.
Similarly, the increasing threat to media freedom is obvious in the recent Democracy Report 2021 from V-Dem, showing that two-thirds of the world’s countries imposed restrictions on media freedom in 2020. V-Dem, the Varieties of Democracy Institute, is an independent research institute based at the University of Gothenburg, producing a global dataset on democracy covering 202 countries.
- Reporters Without Borders: 2021 World Press Freedom Index: Journalism, the vaccine against disinformation, blocked in more than 130 countries
- Press Freedom Index 2021 – full ranking plus map
- Reporters Without Borders analysis, region by region
About Reporters Without Borders’ Press Freedom Index
The index ranks the performance of 180 countries according to a range of criteria, including media pluralism and independence, respect for the safety and freedom of journalists, and the legislative, institutional and infrastructural environment in which the media operate. The index aims to provide a clear picture of the press freedom situation in individual countries and the world at large. The following categories are used: good, fairly good, problematic, bad and very bad. Read more about the methodology.