UPDATE APRIL 2019
Australia has slipped to 21st in the world in the 2019 World Press Freedom Index. The main reasons have been the high media concentration, increased in 2018/19 by the merger between Fairfax and Nine. Other factors included journalism access to migrant detention centres run by the Australian government, and the strengthening of defamation laws in 2018.
New Zealand has risen to 7th place in 2019, up one place from 2018.
In 2019 the winner for Press Freedom was Norway, followed by Finland and Sweden.
Australia has remained in 19th on the World Press Freedom Index for 2018. New Zealand has shot up from 13th place in 2017 to 8th in 2018.
The index found that while Australia has a strong public broadcaster, the duopoly of major media companies News Corp Australia and Fairfax Media was an issue.
“While Australia has good public media, the ownership of its print media is heavily concentrated. Two media groups – News Corporation (owned by billionaire Rupert Murdoch) and Fairfax Media – are responsible for 85% of newspaper sales.”
Australia was also criticised for limited media access to offshore detention centres (Nauru and Manus), and the risk of imprisonment faced by whistleblowers who attempt to disclose information about conditions or operations inside the centres.
Political attacks on journalism were also in the firing line: “A telecommunications law has opened the way to surveillance of the metadata of journalists’ communications. In January 2018, Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull’s government yet again proposed legislation that the would jeopardize the confidentiality of journalists’ sources.”
The Index is produced by Reporters Without Borders and has run since 2002. The Index identifies how different countries react to challenges surrounding press freedom, and the rating is obtained through a questionnaire provided to leading experts in all 180 countries.
Criteria include pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.
The highest ranked nation on the Index was Norway, followed by Sweden and the Netherlands.
The United Kingdom came in at 40th place, while the United States was ranked 45th.
The poorest performing countries on the Index in 2018 were North Korea, Eritrea, Turkmenistan, Syria and China.