In its World Freedom Index 2015, Switzerland is ranked 20th, down from 15th a year ago amid a worldwide “decline on all fronts,” the Paris-based organization notes.
As recently as 2010 the Swiss were ranked first for press freedom under the index, which scores a range of criteria, including media pluralism and independence, respect for the safety and freedom of journalists, and the legislative, institutional and infrastructural environment in which the media operate.
For the fifth year in a row Finland topped the list, followed by Norway, Denmark, Netherlands and Sweden.
At the other end of the scale, Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea, in last place, were the worst performers among the 180 countries surveyed.
“The 2015 World Press Freedom Index highlights the worldwide deterioration in freedom of information in 2014,” the report says.
“Beset by wars, the growing threat from non-state operatives, violence during demonstrations and the economic crisis, media freedom is in retreat on all five continents.”
Reporters Without Borders lamented a “drastic decline in freedom of information” in 2014, with two-thirds of the countries surveyed performing less well in 2014 than in the previous year.
A total of 13 journalists were killed last year, while 165 journalists, 13 medias assistants and 178 “netizens” were imprisoned.
Among countries with populations over 30 million, only Canada (eighth), Germany (12th) and Poland (18th) ranked in the top 20.
The report said the situation for journalists in Western Europe declined in numerous countries.
Andorra posted the sharpest fall to 32nd from fifth place a year earlier, “paying the price for the lack of independence of its media from financial, political and religious interests.”
The report points to “many conflicts of interests and the great difficulty experienced by journalists in covering the activities of Andorran banks, coupled with the lack of any legal protection for freedom of information, such as the confidentiality of journalists’ sources”.
Italy (73rd) fell 24 places after a “difficult year for journalists for whom threats from the mafia, among others, and unjustified defamation suits, skyrocketed,” it said.
“Iceland (21st, down 13) paid the price of worsening relations between politicians and media,” said Reporters Without Borders, calling the drop an alarm call for this “model of democracy”.
The United States (49th, down three places) saw its press freedoms continue to decline, the report said.
“In 2014, the New York Times journalist James Risen came under government pressure to reveal his sources,” it said.
“Although the Obama administration backed away in that case, it continues its war on information in others, such as WikiLeaks.”
Predictably, war-torn countries in the Middle East, Ukraine, Syria and Iraq ranked among the worst in the index.
Among developed countries, Russia’s record (152nd, down four) was one of the poorest.
The report criticized “another string of draconian laws, website blocking and independent news outlets either brought under control or throttled out of existence”.
Russia’s “repressive climate encouraged some local despots to step up their persecution of critics”.
Azerbaijan (162nd, down two) was singled out for having Europe’s biggest prison for news providers with a number of journalists and bloggers behind bars, with media freedom curbed by one-sided regulation.
To check the full report, click here.