Media rights group Reporters Without Borders says there has been a "deep and disturbing decline" in respect for media freedom at levels both regional and global.
The group said in its annual report released Wednesday that the world is entering a "new era of propaganda" and a reluctance to engage in free debate. The group said many world leaders have developed "paranoia" about journalists and are cracking down on the media, while privately-owned media outlets are increasingly under pressure from corporate interests.
Reporters Without Borders said the situation is particularly grave in Latin America, due to institutional violence, organized crime, corruption, and media concentration.
Eritrea worst worldwide
Eritrea was ranked the worst worldwide on overall media freedom, falling below Syria, China, and North Korea.
Finland was ranked highest, followed by the Netherlands and Norway. The United States, where the major problem was reported to be cybersurveillance, was ranked 41st.
The report says the situation globally has deteriorated significantly in the past few years. It attributes the decline to a rise in the authoritarian nature of some governments, such as those in Egypt and Turkey; security situations that have become more dangerous, such as in Libya, Yemen, and Burundi; and tighter government control of state-owned media, even in some European countries such as Poland.
The report also notes legislative pressure on media, in nations where there are laws against such things as blasphemy, insulting those in power, or supporting terrorism. The effect, Reporters Without Borders says, is self-censorship.
The group also notes that media freedom is damaged by governments that are quick to suspend Internet access to their citizens.
The report says every continent has seen a decline in media freedom over the past three years.
The Americas' score has dropped 20.5 percent since 2013, due mostly to attacks on journalists in Mexico and Central America.
Extremist movements and ultraconservative governments in Europe and the Balkans contributed to a 6.5 percent drop, and in eastern Europe and central Asia, the report says, a 5 percent drop is blamed on an "increasingly glacial environment" for media freedom and free speech in nations with authoritarian regimes.