For the fourth year in a row, Finland ranked No.1 in press freedom, as ranked in the 2014 World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
While Finland set the gold-standard for press freedom, close runners-up for a second-straight year included the Netherlands and Norway. Rounding out the top ten were Luxembourg, Andorra, Lichtenstein, Denmark, Iceland, New Zealand, and Sweden. Other countries that scored notably well or saw significant improvements were Ireland (16th), Jamaica (17th), Canada (18th), Uruguay (26th), Australia (28th), Belize (29th), Portugal (30th), Spain (35th), El Salvador (38th), South Africa (42nd), and Italy (49th).
The report highlights the correlation between violent conflicts and the decline in press freedom as a result of media becoming a target in various struggles, such as in Syria and Iraq. Furthermore, the two countries that experienced the largest drop in their ranking were countries mired in violent struggles: Mali dropped 22 positions to 122nd and Central African Republic dropped 34 positions to 109th. The United States dropped 13 spots to the 46th place.
The report noted that the first-ever UN resolution (1738) on the safety of journalists, adopted by consensus, was a step in the right direction. The report called for further UN action in the form of an independent monitoring task-force to monitor and investigate press-freedom abuses.
The report included strong condemnation of practices by supposedly democratic countries and their governments. Large-scale spying by state organizations such as the NSA and CIA, along with their counterparts in many other countries, are referred to as a disturbing retreat from democratic practices. The United States’ persecution of Private Chelsea Manning, computer analyst Edward Snowden, and journalist Barrett Brown, and seizures of Associated Press phone records all received criticism in the report.
On the other hand, the report has just as much, if not more, condemnation for non-state organizations, such as Al-Qaeda and organized criminal organizations, for their hostility and suppression toward journalists who seek to shine light on their activities.
Without any press freedom whatsoever, Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea rank last at 178th, 179th, and 180th. Other notable criticisms in the report are made toward the UK (33rd), the United States (46th), Japan (59th), Hungary (64th), Kenya (90th), Kuwait (91st), Zambia (93rd), Israel (96th), Greece (99th), Guinea (102nd), Paraguay (105th), Lebanon (106th), Brazil (111th), Nigeria (112th), the United Arab Emirates (118th), Honduras (124th), Guatemala (125th), Ukraine (127th), Cameroon (131st), Morocco (136th), Chad (139th), India (140th), Russia (148th), Democratic Republic of Congo (151st), Iraq (153rd), Turkey (154th), Egypt (159th), Azerbaijan (160th), Kazakhstan (161st), Saudi Arabia (164th), Sri Lanka (165th), Uzbekistan (166th), Iran (173rd), Vietnam (174th), China (175th), Somalia (176th), and Syria (177th).
On a regional basis, The EU and Balkans scored the highest, followed by the Americas, Africa, the Asia-Pacific, Eastern and Central Europe, and, lastly, the Middle East and North Africa.
The report ranks the degree of freedom enjoyed by journalists, news organizations, and netizens and the efforts employed by authorities to respect and make sure the freedom of the press. The ranking consists of questionnaires about press freedoms reported from sources within the 180 countries ranked. Questions pertain to detentions, attacks, and killings toward journalists as well as censorship by authorities. Reporters Without Borders also looks at media ownership and favoritism, legislation related to freedom of the press, and discrimination in access to journalism. The report clarifies that it is in no way an indication of the quality of the news media in each country.