The UK has established one of the worst environments for press freedom in Western Europe, a new study has found, putting Britain behind countries like Uruguay, Samoa, and Chile on a global scale.
According to the study, conducted by Reporters Without Borders, a campaign group that aims to protect journalistic freedoms, the UK ranks 40th out of 180 countries on the annual World Press Freedom Index.
This leaves the country ranked between Trinidad & Tobago and Burkina Faso.
The government of Prime Minister Theresa May’s proposals to introduce tougher press regulations and its campaign to limit encryption on social networking services such as WhatsApp were among the main reasons cited by the activist group.
The study also takes a jab at both the ruling Conservatives and the opposition Labour Party for denying journalists adequate access to politicians during last year’s snap general election, denouncing it as evidence of a “heavy-handed” approach towards treating the media in the UK.
Rebecca Vincent, the UK bureau director of Reporters Without Borders, called Britain’s ranking “unacceptable for a country that plays an important international standard-setting role when it comes to human rights and fundamental freedoms.”
“We must examine the longer-term trend of worrying moves to restrict press, and hold the government to account,” she added.
Katherine Viner, The Guardian’s editor, also expressed concern over the study’s findings, warning that the “situation in terms of press freedom is getting worse”
Topping the list were Scandinavian countries with Norway taking top spot, followed by Sweden. Italy was the only Western European country that the UK was able to outscore.
Canada, meanwhile, ranked 18th and was followed by Australia. The United States scored lower than the UK at 45th.
Freedom of Iranian and Russian press in UK
Over the years, Russian and Iranian media outlets have experienced the lack of press freedoms in the UK first hand.
Britain’s media regulator Ofcom revoked the licenses of Press TV in 2012 after the Tehran-based English language outlet aired confessions by a British-Iranian citizen who had spied for Western intelligence services.
More recently, the body said it had informed ANO TV Novosti, the holder of RT’s UK broadcast licenses, that it could lose the broadcasting license should Britain determine Russia played a role in poisoning former spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter in the city of Salisbury last month.