Germany drops 5 places in World Press Freedom Ranking
Since the beginning of the pandemic, attacks on journalists have been on the rise in Germany. Now, figures from the past three years have dropped the federal republic down five spots in the World Press Freedom Ranking for 2023.
RSF World Press Freedom Ranking 2023
Christophe Deloire, Secretary General of Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has characterised the organisation’s newest annual report as revealing “enormous volatility in situations, with major rises and falls and unprecedented changes”.
Published on World Press Freedom Day, May 3, the report considers attitudes towards the freedom of journalists and journalism in 180 countries. The past 10 years-worth of figures have seen a consistent decrease in the number of countries that Reporters Without Borders have evaluated as having a “good situation” when it comes to press freedom, down from 14,4 percent in 2013 to just 4,4 percent, or eight countries, in 2023.
Northern Europe dominated the top of the ranking, with Norway taking the number one spot for the seventh year in a row. Ireland, Denmark and the Netherlands followed. The last three spots on the report were populated by countries in Asia: Vietnam, China and unsurprisingly, North Korea, which took the 180th spot.
AI and social media disinformation present major journalistic challenges
The 2023 report shines a spotlight on the "fake content industry" as one of the greatest threats to modern journalism. “The difference is being blurred between true and false, real and artificial, facts and artifices, jeopardising the right to information”, the RSF wrote, adding that two-thirds of respondents to the report’s questionnaire said they believed political figures in their country were often guilty of spreading disinformation.
Though the exponential development of AI platforms only became a mainstream talking point at the tail end of 2022, the RSF 2023 report underlined the existential threat AI technologies pose to the media world and the journalistic occupation. The report comes in the same week that Geoffrey Hinton, otherwise known as the “Godfather of AI”, left his position at Google due to concerns about the rate at which AI technologies are being developed in an unregulated ecosystem.
Among others in the Silicon Valley elite, Elon Musk has been one of few to push for a pause in AI development, but in the RSF 2023 report, the South African businessman was personally named as posing a threat to press freedom. Musk’s introduction of an “arbitrary, payment-based approach to information” shows that platforms like Twitter are “quicksand for journalism”, the RSF wrote.
Germany falls in World Press Ranking 2023
While the 2023 report named the overall environment for journalism as “favourable” in Germany, the federal republic has dropped five places in this year’s ranking, to place 21. The organisation predominantly put this drop down to a sharp increase in regular attacks on journalists in Germany, which shot up throughout the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom, recorded attacks of a verbal or physical nature on journalists, as well as harassment online, sat at 36 in 2014. After fluctuating in the 20s and 30s in the following years, the number of reports fell to 15 in 2019.
Then, with the advent of coronavirus, the number of incidents shot up to 73 in 2020, 172 attacks in 2021 and 112 in 2022 - so far, 25 incidents have been reported in 2023. RSF pointed out that while physical attacks are regularly prosecuted, online harassment often goes unpunished.
These incidents include attacks by extremist groups on journalists, but also obstruction by the police or judges, preventing journalists from documenting events. The report also pointed out how economic strategies are used by powerful bodies in Germany to curtail press access, such as large companies using Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation (SLAPPs) to intimidate the press.
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