Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has released the 2023 World Press Freedom Index, which sheds light on the major changes and the political, social, and technological upheavals that have taken place in journalism. The Index evaluates the journalism environment of 180 countries and territories and has ranked Norway first for the seventh year in a row. A non-Nordic country, Ireland, is ranked second, followed by Denmark. In contrast, Vietnam, China, and North Korea occupy the last three positions. The Index revealed that the situation is “very serious” in 31 countries, “difficult” in 42, “problematic” in 55, and “good” or “satisfactory” in 52 countries.
RSF Secretary-General, Christophe Deloire, stated that the Index shows enormous volatility in situations, with major rises and falls and unprecedented changes, such as Brazil’s 18-place rise and Senegal’s 31-place fall. Deloire also said that this instability is the result of increased aggressiveness on the part of the authorities in many countries and growing animosity towards journalists on social media and in the physical world. Additionally, the volatility is a consequence of the growth of the fake content industry, which produces and distributes disinformation and provides the tools for manufacturing it. The 2023 Index highlights the rapid effects that the digital ecosystem’s fake content industry has had on press freedom. In two-thirds of the 180 countries evaluated by the Index, political actors were often or systematically involved in massive disinformation or propaganda campaigns.
RSF co-founder’s project, the Forbidden Stories consortium, revealed that the disinformation industry disseminates manipulative content on a massive scale. Artificial Intelligence (AI) is also wreaking further havoc on the media world, as the unprecedented ability to tamper with content is being used to undermine those who embody quality journalism and weaken journalism itself. In addition, the development of artificial intelligence is producing syntheses that flout the principles of rigor and reliability.
According to the report, the terrain has been favorable for an increase in propaganda by Russia, which has fallen another nine places in the 2023 Index. Moscow has established a new media arsenal dedicated to spreading the Kremlin’s message in the occupied territories in southern Ukraine. The US has fallen three places in the Index, with the questionnaire’s respondents citing the legal framework at the local level and widespread violence as negative factors. Brazil has risen 18 places as a result of Jair Bolsonaro’s departure, and Asia’s changes in government have also improved the media environment.
The World Press Freedom Index has underscored the challenges that the journalism industry faces. The fake content industry and AI’s development have resulted in greater volatility and instability in journalism, making it more difficult for people to distinguish between true and false, real and artificial, facts, and artifices.