The 8 Most Dangerous Countries for Journalists; As U.S. Sees Sharp Drop in World Press Freedom Index


Land of the free? The U.S. is failing to uphold freedom of the press, according to the newly-released Reporters Without Borders' 2014 World Press Freedom Index. The U.S. dropped from 32nd to 46th in the rankings since the last year, with the organization citing the hunt for NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and the Justice Department's seizure of Associated Press phone records as reasons for the downfall.

"Both the US and UK authorities seem obsessed with hunting down whistleblowers instead of adopting legislation to rein in abusive surveillance practices that negate privacy, a democratic value cherished in both countries," the report chastised.

Of course, there are a lot of other countries that are way worse to their press corps — and some where journalism simply struggles to exist. Journalists in places like Syria, Iran, China, and India face violence every day, and many have been killed for their reporting.

Let's take a look at the most dangerous places to be a journalist.

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North Korea

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It’s no surprise that Kim Jong-un’s Democratic People’s Republic of Korea is on this list. Just take a look at the Korean Central News Agency’s website. After reports surfaced that dictator Kim Jong-un executed his uncle, the news agency apparently deleted its archives.

And now that Dennis Rodman did a stint in rehab (and reportedly immediately started drinking again), it’s unclear if “basketball diplomacy” will ever happen again.


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The Syrian civil war has already generated over a million refugees and leveled entire neighborhoods. But information cannot be disseminated in President Bashar Assad’s stronghold because press freedom is nil.

“The Syrian crisis has also had dramatic repercussions throughout the region, reinforcing media polarization in Lebanon (106th, -4), encouraging the Jordanian authorities to tighten their grip, and accelerating the spiral of violence in Iraq (153rd, -2), where tension between Shiites and Sunnis is growing,” according to the World Press Freedom report.


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Vietnam has even more journalists in jail (18) than Syria. One of them, a blogger named Nguyen Van Hai, had a one-day trial and started a hunger strike when authorities insisted he sign a guilty admission.


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Much of the upheaval in Somalia is connected to Al-Shabaab, an extremist Islamic organization that emerged after the country’s chaos in the 1990s. Four journalists were murdered in 2013, and one was arrested after reporting on an alleged rape where she was the victim.


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The report mentions that organized crime in China is an obstacle to fair reporting. Just last month, the country forced a Time reporter, Austin Ramzy, to leave China when his journalist visa was not renewed. The Washington Post notes that other foreign reporters who wrote about wealth and corruption in China’s Communist Party had their visa applications dangled in limbo until the very last minute.


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Even though Iranian President Hassan Rouhani promised changes in free speech and the media, Reporters Without Borders says the situation is no better for journalists in the country.

“At least 10 more journalists and bloggers have been arrested since his election victory, 10 others have been sentenced to a combined total of 72 years in prison and three newspapers have been closed or forced to suspend publishing under pressure from the authorities,” according to the report.


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According to Reporters Without Borders, Turkmenistan is one of the countries that “continue to be news and information black holes and living hells for the journalists who inhabit them.”

Human Rights Watch has also derided country officials who continue arrest and harass journalists under a veil of secrecy.


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“Freedom of information is non-existent” in Eritrea, according to Reporters Without Borders, which named the country the worst in the world for press freedom. The country locked up 22 journalists behind bars in 2013; the most in Africa. None of the journalists received a trial.

“It is really a closed off country. It is considered the North Korea of Africa,” the Committee to Protect Journalists’ Tom Rhodes says. “We mostly rely on exiled journalists, Eritreans who fled the country that tell us what’s going on.”