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Which country has the most freedom of press? Where is the US ranked? Complete list of countries

The Reporters Without Borders’ 20th World Press Freedom Index revealed increased polarization in the media fueling divisions within and between countries.

Freedom of the press and where the US stands

Freedom of the press is one of the fundamental pillars of a healthy democracy. Every year since 2002, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has published a World Press Freedom Index which tracks the state of journalism in 180 countries. Its 20th annual report revealed that polarization in the media increased by two-fold which in turn was fueling divisions within countries as well as between countries internationally due to “information chaos.”

The report found that the spread of opinion media along the lines of the “Fox News model” were driving those divisions within democratic societies. This was aided by the expanding “disinformation circuits that are amplified by the way social media functions.”

The asymmetry between despotic regimes, which are waging propaganda wars against democracies using their control of media and online platforms, and open societies is weakening democracies. That in turn is stirring up tensions both inside the target nations and between countries.

Which country has the most freedom of press?

The top five countries are all in the Nordic region with Norway keeping its place at the head of the pack. It’s followed by Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, which jumped 11 spots to number four, and Finland. The remaining five are all European countries with the exception of Costa Rica which came in number eight in the 2022 ranking, slipping from number five the year before.

The 20th World Press Freedom Index categorized 28 countries as “very bad”, a record number. Hong Kong plummeted to 148th on the list from 80th due to a new a national security law imposed by the Chinese government which targets journalists. The five worse performers were North Korea in last place followed by Eritrea, Iran, Turkmenistan and Myanmar. China and Russia came in 175th and 155th respectively.

Where is the US ranked?

The US moved up slightly in the RSF’s rankings from 44th to 42nd due in part to President Biden signaling “his administration’s desire to see the US reclaim its global status as a model from freedom of expression,” after four years of the previous US president “constantly denigrating the press.” The White House reinstated regular press briefings from federal agencies in 2021.

However, the US Fact File states: “Despite these efforts, many of the underlying, chronic issues impacting journalists remain unaddressed by the authorities.”

That includes the “disappearance of local news, the polarisation of the media or the weakening of journalism and democracy caused by digital platforms and social networks.”

The RSF’s 21st World Press Freedom Index and report will be released on Wednesday 3 May 2023.


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