On World Press Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) points out that less than ten percent of the world’s population is now living in countries where journalists enjoy a favourable environment and are able to practice their profession freely and independently.

Only 9% of humankind lives in a country where RSF regards the level of press freedom as either good or satisfactory – a country coloured either white or yellow on the World Press Freedom Map that is derived from the 2019 World Press Freedom Index unveiled by RSF on 18 April.

Seventy-four percent of the world’s population lives in a country that is coloured black or red on the map, in other words, a country where the press freedom situation is regarded as difficult or very serious, where the freedom to inform is heavily suppressed. This is the case not only in China, Russia and Saudi Arabia but also in democracies such as Mexico and India. If you include the countries coloured orange, where the situation is regarded as problematic, the figure rises to 91%.

None of humankind’s big problems – whether global warming, corruption or gender inequality – can be solved without information that is freely and independently reported and reliable, in other words, without quality journalism,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said. “This situation is very worrying for journalists and above all for all those human beings who are being deprived of their right to information.”

These figures are based on World Bank population statistics and the percentages in RSF’s 2019 World Press Freedom Index. They are reflected in the World Press Freedom Map, which has been getting darker and darker for years. The global press freedom indicator has deteriorated by 11% in the past five years.

The deterioration is also due in part to the demographic weight of certain of the countries occupying some of the lowest positions in RSF’s Index. India, which is ranked 140th and is coloured red, and China, which is ranked 177th and is coloured black, have a combined population of 2.7 billion, whereas Norway, the country ranked first in the Index, has only 5.2 million inhabitants.

Some countries with sizeable populations nonetheless made significant democratic progress in 2018 that was reflected in major rises in the Index. They include Ethiopia, with its 100 million inhabitants, which soared 40 places in the Index to 110th position, and Malaysia, with its 31.6 million inhabitants, which rose 22 places to 123rd position.

Published annually by RSF since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index measures the level of respect for the freedom to inform in 180 countries.