"Hate speech" and a "climate of hatred" against journalists are on the rise, according to the 2018 World Press Freedom Index from media advocate Reporters Without Borders.
"Hostility towards the media, openly encouraged by political leaders, and the efforts of authoritarian regimes to export their vision of journalism pose a threat to democracies," according to the index, which was released Wednesday.
The index "evaluates the level of press freedom in 180 countries each year" and said a "climate of hatred is steadily more visible" in the index itself — and that hostility toward reporters from political leaders was "no longer limited to authoritarian countries."
More from the index:
More and more democratically-elected leaders no longer see the media as part of democracy’s essential underpinning, but as an adversary to which they openly display their aversion. The United States, the country of the First Amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th. A media-bashing enthusiast, Trump has referred to reporters “enemies of the people,” the term once used by Joseph Stalin.
Who can forget CNN's chief White House correspondent Jim Acosta getting into it with Trump at a news conference just days before his 2017 inauguration? Trump told Acosta, "you are fake news":
“He called us the dishonest media, the disgusting media, he called us liars, thieves, scum, criminals … he said all those things about us,” Acosta recalled in a video interview this week with Variety magazine.
More from the index:
The line separating verbal violence from physical violence is dissolving. In the Philippines (down six at 133rd), President Rodrigo Duterte not only constantly insults reporters but has also warned them that they “are not exempted from assassination.” In India (down two at 138th), hate speech targeting journalists is shared and amplified on social networks, often by troll armies in Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s pay. In each of these countries, at least four journalists were gunned down in cold blood in the space of a year.
“The unleashing of hatred towards journalists is one of the worst threats to democracies,” Christophe Deloire, secretary-general for Reporters Without Borders, noted. “Political leaders who fuel loathing for reporters bear heavy responsibility because they undermine the concept of public debate based on facts instead of propaganda. To dispute the legitimacy of journalism today is to play with extremely dangerous political fire.”
What countries treat journalists the best and worst, according to the index?
Norway tops the list for the second year in a row, the index said, followed by Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland.
North Korea is at the bottom of list, the index indicated.
"After stifling independent voices at home, Vladimir Putin’s Russia (148th) is extending its propaganda network by means of media outlets such as RT and Sputnik, while Xi Jinping’s China (176th) is exporting its tightly controlled news and information model in Asia," the index said. "Their relentless suppression of criticism and dissent provides support to other countries near the bottom of the Index such as Vietnam (175th), Turkmenistan (178th) and Azerbaijan (163rd)."
The index said Mexico (ranked at 147) became the world’s "second deadliest country for journalists in 2017, with 11 killed."
You can read the entire report here.