Freedom of the press has declined globally — results vary in Finland’s development cooperation partner countries

According to the new index, the freedom of the press is under threat globally, and increasingly so in Europe as well. Tanzania, which moved up 46 places, and Ukraine, which is defending against Russia’s aggression, were major advancers among Finland’s key bilateral partner countries.

Two journalists documenting a destroyed hospital in Khan Younis, Gaza, Palestine.
Journalists document hospital ruins in the city of Khan Yunis in southern Gaza. On 2 May, UNESCO awarded the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize to Palestinian journalists for documenting the war in Gaza. Photo: AFP / Lehtikuva

The worrying trend of freedom of the press continues, according to the World Press Freedom Index 2024 produced by Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

On a global scale, the freedom of journalists is curtailed in particular by weakening political support and governments’ activities that undermine the freedom of the press. The political indicator describing the activities of governments and their impact on press freedom saw the biggest fall compared to the previous year’s index.

Finland again ranked in fifth place.

“The situation in Finland is stable, and the country is practically at the absolute top of the ranking on a global scale. So, there is no acute cause for alarm,” said President of the Finnish chapter of Reporters Without Borders Kaius Niemi at the Press Freedom Day seminar on Friday 3 May.

The index shows that in Finland’s neighbouring areas, press freedom has declined especially in Eastern Europe. The effects of Russia’s aggression against Ukraine are visible in countries where politicians supporting the Russian regime seek to undermine journalistic independence. For example, Slovakia fell 12 and Georgia 26 places in the ranking.

Glimpse of progress in Ukraine and Tanzania

The results of Finland’s bilateral partner countries in the World Press Freedom Index 2024 vary.

Regardless of the negative trend in Eastern Europe, Ukraine achieved a positive result. Despite Russia’s aggression, the country surged 18 places, and its ranking is now 61. In 2024–2028, Ukraine is Finland’s biggest partner in development cooperation.

The biggest climber was Tanzania, moving up 46 places in the ranking. According to the RSF, the press freedom situation in Tanzania has improved since the regime change in 2021.

Among Finland’s partner countries, another big climber in Africa besides Tanzania was Kenya, which moved up 14 places. Yet, the general trend in Africa is downwards: the report shows that in several African countries elections resulted in violence against journalists in 2023.

The Middle East and Somalia took a step backwards

One of the key messages of the new report is the deteriorating situation of journalists in Palestine, where Israel has killed more than 100 Palestinian journalists in the past six months. Palestine ranked in 157th place. Finland’s development cooperation in the region has focused on supporting the education sector.

The situation is also poor in Finland’s long-term partner country Somalia, which dropped to place 145. According to the report, Somalia is the most dangerous country in Africa for journalists.

Specialist Wali Hashi from the Finnish Foundation for Media and Development (Vikes) nevertheless believes that journalists and the stories they convey play an important role in peacebuilding.

“The story of peace is interesting from a journalistic point of view, because peace is a new concept in a country that has been plagued by a civil war for decades,” Hashi said at the Press Freedom Day seminar. According to him, restoring peace is also a task for journalists.

Hashi spoke via a video link from Somalia, where he is cooperating with local journalists.

The Press Freedom Day seminar was organised by the Finnish Foundation for Media and Development (Vikes), Demo Finland, the Union of Journalists in Finland, Reporters without Borders Finland and the Finnish National Commission for UNESCO.

Rankings of Finland’s key partner countries

The rankings of the key development cooperation partner countries in 2024. The change from the 2023 index is given in brackets.

  • Africa: Ethiopia, 141 (-11); Kenya, 102 (+14); Mozambique, 105 (-3); Somalia, 145 (-4); Tanzania, 97 (+46)
  • Asia: Nepal, 74 (+21); Palestine, 157 (-1); Syria, 179 (-4); Kyrgyzstan, 120 (+2); Tajikistan, 155 (-2); Uzbekistan, 148 (-11)
  • Europe: Ukraine, 61 (+18)