A report into press freedom has ranked the UK as only ‘partially open’ in a new global index of freedom of expression.
The report by advocacy group Index on Censorship placed the UK in a tier below almost all its Western European neighbours, as well as Australia, Israel, Costa Rica and Jamaica.
The UK was ranked as ‘partially open’ across all three areas of consideration, including press and media freedom, freedom of academic expression, and digital freedom.
The report identified several causes of the UK’s poor score. Index on Censorship’s CEO Ruth Anderson highlighted issues such as Chinese Communist Party influence in the art world and the ‘chilling effect’ of the Online Safety Bill. The report comes a month after Hertfordshire police admitted to wrongfully arresting a journalist who was covering climate protests.
“You might assume we would be with countries like Australia, Ireland and others, who actually have better protections for freedom of expression. But honestly I think we have taken our eye off the ball. It’s a shock, especially in the current environment where people talk a great deal about freedom of expression and use terms like woke,” Anderson told the Guardian
The index uses data from a number of sources including the World Press Freedom Index compiled by Reporters without Borders, UNESCO’s Observatory of Killed Journalists and the Global Cybersecurity Index. The data is then compiled into an overall score using machine learning techniques.
A spokesman for the Department for Culture, Media and Sport said of criticisms of the UK’s index score: “The online safety bill poses no threat to free speech. It does not require any legal content to be removed and puts tough new duties on tech platforms to safeguard journalism and protect people’s right to express themselves. That will be a huge improvement on the status quo in which social media firms make arbitrary and inconsistent decisions which impact people’s free speech online.”