CPJ’s #FreeThePress campaign highlighted several jailed journalists. (Photos: Various)
CPJ’s #FreeThePress campaign highlighted several jailed journalists. (Photos: Various)

Year in review: The state of press freedom in 2019

The Torch is a weekly newsletter from the Committee to Protect Journalists that brings you the latest press freedom and journalist safety news from around the world. Subscribe here.

This year, journalists worldwide faced attacks, arrests, and censorship. In September, we released our annual 10 Most Censored list, highlighting the range of online and offline techniques used to censor journalism and restrict press freedom.

Meanwhile, protests in over two dozen countries posed risks to members of the press. Journalists faced threats while covering civil unrest in Albania, Algeria, Azerbaijan, Bolivia, Burundi, Cambodia, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, Ethiopia, France, Haiti, Hong Kong, Honduras, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Italy, Kazakhstan, Liberia, Myanmar, Northern Ireland, Nigeria, Paraguay, Puerto Rico, Russia, Spain, Sudan, Turkey, and Venezuela.

Internet shutdowns, restrictions on internet access, and social media censorship also threaten press freedom and limit journalists’ ability to do their jobs. Throughout the year, there were internet shutdowns in Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Kashmir, Mauritania, Myanmar, Sudan, Venezuela, and Zimbabwe, among others. Watch our video explainer about internet shutdowns here.

Efforts by governments and social media platforms to limit the circulation of problematic material online, from extremism to disinformation, continued to ensnare journalists and threaten independent reporting. This year, new technology regulations that risk restricting journalism emerged in Algeria, Australia, Cuba, Egypt, Ethiopia, the European Union, Israel and the Occupied Palestinian Territory, Kazakhstan, Liberia, New Zealand, Russia, Sri Lanka, Singapore, and Turkey.

For female journalists in the U.S., rape threats, stalkers, and harassment can come with the beat and, in a survey of female and gender non-conforming journalists in the U.S. and Canada, more than 70 percent of respondents said they had experienced safety issues or threats. In sports journalism, female reporters are often harassed by fans online.

For more of what happened regarding press freedom this year, take a look at CPJ’s most-read blogs from 2019:

Special reports on press freedom in 2019:

In our 2019 report on killed journalists, CPJ found 25 journalists killed for their work as of December 13. In this year’s prison census, CPJ found 250 journalists imprisoned around the world on December 1.

CPJ’s 2019 Impunity Index highlights countries where journalists are murdered and their killers go free. This year’s report found that of the 318 journalists murdered from September 1, 2008, to August 31, 2018, no perpetrators were successfully prosecuted in 86 percent of cases.

Our other special reports from 2019:

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