Reporters without Borders says Russia, the United States, Japan and many parts of Europe lost ground last year in its ranking of global press freedoms.
War, the rise of non-state groups, crackdowns on demonstrations, and economic crises provided a backdrop for a tough 2014. The Paris-based media watchdog said two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed in its annual World Press Freedom index scored worse than a year earlier.
Western Europe, while top-ranked, lost the most ground as a region. Three Nordic countries headed the list, but there was slippage in Italy — where mafia and other threats weighed on journalists — and Iceland, where the relationship between the media and politicians soured, the group said.
Italy also saw “an increasing number of abusive defamation proceedings against journalists,” Lucie Morillon, a research director at Reporters without Borders, told The Associated Press. Italy plunged 24 spots in the classification to 73rd.
The U.S. fell three places to 49th amid a “war on information” by the Obama administration in some cases. Reporters also faced difficulty covering events like demonstrations in Ferguson, Missouri, where a black teenager was shot dead in August by a white police officer, Morillon said.
Russia dropped two notches to 152nd place after passing “draconian laws” to limit freedom of information, the group said.
This story is compiled with information from The Associated Press.