Afghanistan among worst countries for press freedom: RSF

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) findings reveal Afghanistan ranks among the worst countries for journalists and press freedom, trailing only behind Syria and Eritrea.

According to the World Press Freedom Index released in conjunction with World Press Freedom Day by RSF, Afghanistan is placed 178th with a score of 19.09. Syria and Eritrea are slightly worse, scoring 17.41 and 16.64 respectively, placing them 179th and 180th on the list.

RSF attributes Afghanistan’s drop of 26 places on the index to the deaths and arrests of journalists in the country. The organization stated, “The Taliban’s control over this nation of 40 million has sounded the death knell for press freedom and the safety of journalists, particularly female reporters. Media outlets are now compelled to broadcast information dictated by the Taliban government.”

RSF further commented that press freedom is being suppressed by the political rulers of countries who should be its guarantors.

In the nearly three years since their takeover, the Taliban have detained dozens of journalists. They have also imposed severe restrictions on the media, including mandating female broadcasters to wear masks and, in some cases, prohibiting women from appearing in programs.

The annual World Press Freedom Index by RSF assesses 180 countries based on journalists’ ability to work and report freely and independently. This year’s index shows a global decline in press freedom and a significant increase in political repression of journalists and independent media outlets amid democratic elections involving more than half the world’s population.

“RSF is observing a worrying decline in support and respect for media autonomy and an increase in state or political pressures,” said Anne Bocandé, RSF’s editorial director. “State and political actors are increasingly less protective of press freedom. This abandonment is often accompanied by more aggressive measures that compromise journalists’ roles or even exploit the media through harassment or misinformation campaigns.”

The Maghreb and Middle East regions saw the highest government restrictions on press freedom, RSF reported. Over the past year, governments in the region have sought to control media through violence, arrests, and harsh laws, with a prevailing “systematic impunity for crimes of violence against journalists.”

According to RSF, since October 2023, more than 100 Palestinian reporters have been killed in Gaza, including at least 22 while on duty. The situation has also worsened in Sudan, with severe crackdowns on independent coverage of violence and civil war. Media conditions in Syria have deteriorated, and journalists who fled press repression there face threats of expulsion from neighboring countries like Jordan, Turkey, and Lebanon. RSF also highlighted that four of the world’s largest jailers of journalists—Israel, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Iran—continue to imprison and target media personnel.