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A major new global ranking index tracking the state of free expression published today (Wednesday, 25 January) by Index on Censorship sees the UK ranked as only “partially open” in every key area measured.
In the overall rankings, the UK fell below countries including Australia, Israel, Costa Rica, Chile, Jamaica and Japan. European neighbours such as Austria, Belgium, France, Germany and Denmark also all rank higher than the UK.
The Index Index, developed by Index on Censorship and experts in machine learning and journalism at Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), uses innovative machine learning techniques to map the free expression landscape across the globe, giving a country-by-country view of the state of free expression across academic, digital and media/press freedoms.
Key findings include:
The countries with the highest ranking (“open”) on the overall Index are clustered around western Europe and Australasia – Australia, Austria, Belgium, Costa Rica, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland.
The UK and USA join countries such as Botswana, Czechia, Greece, Moldova, Panama, Romania, South Africa and Tunisia ranked as “partially open”.
The poorest performing countries across all metrics, ranked as “closed”, are Bahrain, Belarus, Burma/Myanmar, China, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Eswatini, Laos, Nicaragua, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Sudan, Syria, Turkmenistan, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Countries such as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates performed poorly in the Index Index but are embedded in key international mechanisms including G20 and the UN Security Council.
Ruth Anderson, Index on Censorship CEO, said:
“The launch of the new Index Index is a landmark moment in how we track freedom of expression in key areas across the world. Index on Censorship and the team at Liverpool John Moores University have developed a rankings system that provides a unique insight into the freedom of expression landscape in every country for which data is available.
“The findings of the pilot project are illuminating, surprising and concerning in equal measure. The United Kingdom ranking may well raise some eyebrows, though is not entirely unexpected. Index on Censorship’s recent work on issues as diverse as Chinese Communist Party influence in the art world through to the chilling effect of the UK Government’s Online Safety Bill all point to backward steps for a country that has long viewed itself as a bastion of freedom of expression.
“On a global scale, the Index Index shines a light once again on those countries such as China, Russia, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates with considerable influence on international bodies and mechanisms – but with barely any protections for freedom of expression across the digital, academic and media spheres.”
Nik Williams, Index on Censorship policy and campaigns officer, said:
“With global threats to free expression growing, developing an accurate country-by-country view of threats to academic, digital and media freedom is the first necessary step towards identifying what needs to change. With gaps in current data sets, it is hoped that future ‘Index Index’ rankings will have further country-level data that can be verified and shared with partners and policy-makers.
“As the ‘Index Index’ grows and develops beyond this pilot year, it will not only map threats to free expression but also where we need to focus our efforts to ensure that academics, artists, writers, journalists, campaigners and civil society do not suffer in silence.”
Steve Harrison, LJMU senior lecturer in journalism, said:
“Journalists need credible and authoritative sources of information to counter the glut of dis-information and downright untruths which we’re being bombarded with these days. The Index Index is one such source, and LJMU is proud to have played our part in developing it.
“We hope it becomes a useful tool for journalists investigating censorship, as well as a learning resource for students. Journalism has been defined as providing information someone, somewhere wants suppressed – the Index Index goes some way to living up to that definition.”
Happy New Year!
I think we can all agree, regardless of where we live, that 2022 was a tumultuous year. There was seemingly a new crisis every day. Totalitarian regimes moving against their populations became increasingly normal, from Iran to China. The ongoing rise (and occasional fall) of populist politics. The Russian invasion of Ukraine. The rise of energy and food costs and the impact on some of the world’s poorest. The attempted murder of Sir Salman Rushdie. And to be parochial just for a moment, complete political insanity in the UK.
I really hoped that 2023 would mark the end, or at least a pause, of that wonderful Chinese saying – we live in interesting times. Even for just a few months I had dreamed of a period of calm, of quiet, of dullness. Or at least a few weeks so we could all catch up on life and enjoy the world we live in, rather than being anxious at turning on the news.
It is only the sixth day of the year and my wish for calm has already been broken. This week we have seen political dysfunction in the USA; Belarus has commenced trials against many of their high-profile detainees who were arrested during the demonstrations against Lukashenka; there have been deadly riots in Mexico and the news is filled with the gloom of Covid (and China’s censoring of news on it), flu and inflation. It’s day six…
We knew that this year would see significant world events, as the impact of the war in Ukraine continues to be felt. But China is also likely to seek to exploit this global diplomatic distraction for their own nefarious wants. And of course the protests in Iran, Afghanistan, South Sudan and Mexico continue apace – even as they evolve.
Index will remain busy in the months ahead as we seek to shine a spotlight on the actions of totalitarian regimes and make sure that you hear from the people behind the headlines. From the women now banned from attending university in Afghanistan, from the democracy activists imprisoned in Belarus, from the Rohingya mothers held in camps as they flee Myanmar, from the journalists who fight to be heard and stay alive in Mexico. Index will keep providing a platform for the persecuted, so they can tell their stories and you can hear them.
Happy New Year in these interesting times.
Fergal Keane is a journalist who made his name as a war reporter at the end of millennium, covering conflicts from Congo and Rwanda to Kosovo. In 2003, the Index on Censorship recognised his efforts with their award for Outstanding Commitment to Journalism Integrity. It wasn’t Keane’s first award, and it wasn’t his last either. On top of his Orwell Prize (1996) and Amnesty International Press Award (1993) and Television Prize (1994), his OBE and his BAFTA (both from 1997), Keane has since added a Sony Gold award in 2009, for his inspiring Radio 4 series ‘Taking a Stand’, and the Ireland Funds Literary Award in 2015.
In 2004, following decades in the profession, Keane made the decision to stop entering active war zones. "I couldn't justify potentially robbing my children of a father,” he told the Daily Telegraph in 2010. “I couldn’t do it anymore.” But despite a slight career shift, Keene continues his commitment to journalism and justice just as fervently. He is now a special correspondent for the BBC, still writing and broadcasting on topics like the refugee crisis, the Yemen conflict and the South Sudan civil war – though sometimes from afar – as well as often being dispatched to the latest scenes of terrorism in Europe, whether France, Belgium or Germany. Wherever he is, he retains an insight and awareness of historical context that few can match.
Beyond the BBC, he is also the author of several well-received books and in 2011 he received an honorary degree from the University of Liverpool, where he is now three years into a Professorial Fellowship. He is part of the university’s Institute of Irish Studies, teaching students on the Understanding Conflict masters programme.
Speaking to the university’s website in 2015, Fergal criticised the “endlessly reductive” mainstream press and urged his students to “always challenge your opinions with facts, every day of your life. You will only know what your opinions are worth if they are taken out of the box and subjected to the most severe tests. Facts, facts, facts.”
Not all Keane’s work is confined to journalism, however. In 2005, he founded Msaada, an NGO dedicated to assisting Rwandans – and Rwandan society – to recover from the 1994 genocide, through meaningful, income-generating projects. It continues to support such projects today.
Samuel Earle is a member of Index on Censorship's Youth Advisory Board. He is a freelance writer and recent masters graduate from the London School of Economics and Political Science, where he studied Political Theory. He lives in Paris.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width="1/2"][vc_single_image image="85476" img_size="full" alignment="center" onclick="custom_link" link="https://www.indexoncensorship.org/2016/11/awards-2017/"][/vc_column][vc_column width="1/2"][vc_column_text]
Seventeen years of celebrating the courage and creativity of some of the world’s greatest journalists, artists, campaigners and digital activists
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