It’s no surprise that countries like Norway or Switzerland rank high when it comes to freedom of the press. We frequently discuss these countries as being great places for personal and data privacy. Many European countries, despite their economic issues, have greater freedom of speech than the United States.
Each year, Reporters Without Borders ranks each country based on their level of press freedom. In 2013, Finland retained its top ranking as the country with the highest level of press freedom. The United States ranked 32nd and has dropped each year lately. Another survey listed it at a shocking 49th place.
Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea tied for last, thanks to reporter prison populations (Eritrea is also a tax disaster).
However, there are several surprisingly high-ranking countries on the list of places with freedom of the press. You might not expect these countries to score highly on such an index at all, let alone more highly than the United States.
So in case you still think “they hate us because of our freedom”, enjoy a list of five countries with greater freedom of the press than the United States.
Top 5 Countries with more freedom of the press than the US
Suriname is the smallest sovereign state in South America and part of the continent’s less prosperous northeastern coast. In 2010, former dictator Dési Bouterse was elected as President of the country. While Suriname enjoys greater freedom of the press than the United States, it does not enjoy open markets. Tariffs are high, foreign investment rules are insane, corruption is high, and it takes almost two years to start a business. Government jobs are about the only ones easy to come by, and private property is poorly protected. Suriname ranked 31st in freedom of the press in 2013.
If you want to be a frontier market entrepreneur in Africa, Ghana isn’t your worst option. However, while Ghana has undergone decent economic reforms, it still suffers from corruption and starting a business costs four times the average annual salary. These issues still make Ghana the seventh freest economy in Africa, however the country is still very much a frontier economy. Only thirteen percent of roads were paved as of a few years ago, but Ghana still managed to place thirtieth on the Freedom of the Press Index, two places higher above the USA.
Slovakia ranked two places higher in 2013 than it did the year before, good enough for 23rd place overall. The eastern European country has been increasing its freedoms overall, but corruption and systemic issues in the economy have held it back from faster improvements. Despite being one of the top economies in the region throughout the 1990s, economic growth in Slovakia has slowed. Taxes went up significantly in 2013, despite several European countries lowering taxes. That said, freedom of the press has been improving.
Namibia rose one position to climb the ladder of the Top 20 on the Freedom of the Press Index. Originally tracing its roots to Bushmen in the fourteenth century, Namibia became a protectorate of Germany in the late 1800s before it was turned over to South Africa and, eventually, its apartheid policies. Namibia has become a popular destination for safaris as places like Kenya have been overrun by tourists, but their economic condition is more fragile. Namibia gets weak ratings in terms of economic resilience, efficiency, and corruption. The country is run largely by tribal and political influence, yet it managed to outperform the United States in journalist freedom.
Ranking thirteenth overall on Reporters Without Borders’ Freedom of the Press Index, Jamaica is actually the highest ranking country for journalists in the Americas; all twelve countries above it are in Europe. Jamaica shares a Top 20 ranking with only two other countries in the Americas: Costa Rica at 18th, and Canada at 20th. Jamaica has been praised for lacking the political tension and judicial harassment that some other countries in the region suffer from. While such warnings are almost always exaggerated, governments and interest groups have urged caution to tourists visiting Jamaica, as riots have been known to arupt with little notice. However, reporters in the country are more free to produce their own stories free from retribution; at least more so than any other country outside of Europe.
What are your thoughts on press freedom in the United States and around the world? Leave a comment below.