Hostility toward journalists often expressed by political leaders is putting media at risk globally, the watchdog Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said in its annual report published on April 18.
Hatred of the media spread by politicians had 'incited increasingly serious and frequent acts of violence that have fueled an unprecedented level of fear and danger for journalists,' it said in its 2019 World Press Freedom Index.
A 'hostile climate that goes beyond [President] Donald Trump's comments' meant the United States had fallen three places to number 48 in the index, according to RSF.
The murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul also 'sent a chilling message to journalists well beyond the borders of Saudi Arabia,' down three to 172, the report said.
In other countries, threats, insults and attacks had become 'occupational hazards,' RSF said, noting that in India, ranked 140, six journalists were murdered last year.
RSF said the number of countries regarded as safe, where journalists can work in complete security, continues to decline, while authoritarian regimes continue to tighten their grip on the media.
Norway topped the index for the third year running. At the other end, Turkmenistan replaced North Korea in the bottom spot at 180.
Russia, ranked 149, continues to persecute independent media outlets, the RSF report said.
Uzbekistans rating rose five spots to 160, after freeing all the journalists who were imprisoned under Islam Karimov, an autocrat who ruled for a quarter-century until his death in 2016.
Armenia's ranking was up 19 spots to 61. This, RSF said, was a result of the velvet revolution, which has loosened the governments grip on state-owned broadcasting.
Iran, on the other hand, was down six places to 170. RSF noted Iran is one of the worlds biggest jailers of journalists.
Afghanistan, ranked 121, and Pakistan, ranked 142, were noted in the RSF report for the extremely high number of murdered journalists.
With reporting by dpa
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