‘Freedom of Press’ is published by the US-based Freedom House, an NGO established in 1941 that has been ranking countries worldwide since 1980 in relation to democracy, human rights and press freedom. In May 2014 it reported that Britain has slipped down the global rankings for freedom of the press to 36th place.
The organisation said press freedom and therefore free speech, had fallen to its lowest level for over a decade. It partly blames regressive steps in countries such as Libya, Turkey and Ukraine, as well as the actions taken against journalists reporting on national security issues in both the US and UK.
Karin Karlekar, the report’s project director, said: “We see declines in media freedom on a global level, driven by governments’ efforts to control the message and punish the messenger.” Clearly she could have been talking specifically about Britain in the light of the arrest of David Miranda and the enforced destruction of source material at The Guardian newspaper HQ by government security officials.
Of the 197 countries and territories assessed during 2013, 63 were rated free, 68 partly free and 66 not free. Britain dropped from 31st place last year to 36th, ranking it alongside Malta and Slovakia.
“Significant decline took place in Turkey (which fell into the ‘not free’ category) as well as in Greece, Montenegro and the United Kingdom,” Freedom House said.
One year later, the 2015 report states that Britain’s freedom of the press has declined yet further, straddled by now by Uruguay and Slovakia and now just 6 points from being classed as ‘partly free’ alongside Kazakhstan.