Losing the Right to Speak? – World Press Freedom Day

By Lukas Bernhard May 4, 2020 Weekly Graphs

Yesterday, the world celebrated the World Press Freedom Day. Yet as shown with the most recent V-Dem data, large gaps in freedom of expression persist. 

Here, we use the index on freedom of expression. It is composed of indicators for print/broadcast censorship effort, harassment of journalists, media self-censorship, freedom of discussion for men/women, and freedom of academic and cultural expression. Freedom of expression is measured on an interval scale from low to high (0-1). Higher values indicate more freedom of speech.

Freedom of expression map (graph 1).png

The graph shows the degree of freedom of speech in the world in 2019. The darker blue indicates high freedom of expression, whereas the lighter blue suggests freedom of speech is low or absent.

The map shows some striking regional differences. Countries in Western Europe and North America have the highest degree of freedom of expression, followed by Latin America and the Caribbean and Sub-Saharan Africa. Freedom of speech is substantially lower in Eastern Europe and Central Asia and Asia Pacific, and the lowest in the Middle East and North Africa.

Freedom of expression 1994 - 2019 (graph2).png

Compared to 1994, when the World Press Freedom Day was first proclaimed by the UN General Assembly, some things have changed. Overall, over the last 25 years, freedom of expression in the world has declined. In 2019 more people were denied their rights to speak freely as compared to 1994. 

There are, however, some important regional differences. Whereas freedom of expression has barely changed in Western Europe and North America, it has declined substantially in four other regions: Asia-Pacific, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Middle East and North Africa. Things have only changed for the better in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is now coming third in its degree of freedom of speech.

To learn more about V-Dem indicators and our online analysis tools, visit www.v-dem.net.

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