Freedom of information fell sharply around the world last year, according to the Reporters Without Borders annual World Press Freedom Index.
The decline was sharpest in the European Union area, with countries such as Italy, Iceland and Andorra seeing dramatic deterioration in working conditions for journalists.
In Italy, “threats from the mafia, among others, and unjustified defamation suits, skyrocketed”, according to the report, sending it 24 places down to 73rd in the world.
Andorra, which experienced the worst decline of any country in the world (down 27 places to 32nd), “has paid the price for the lack of independence of its media from financial, political and religious interests,” it said.
Other countries where press freedom slumped badly included Venezuela (down 20 places to 137th), Libya (down 17 places to 154th) and Russia (down 4 places to 152nd).
The USA “continued its decline” after the Obama administration spent much of the year trying to force New York Times journalist James Risen to reveal his sources, as well as going after WikiLeaks.
It fell three places to 49th in the world. Britain was ranked 34th in the world in 2015, having fallen one place since last year’s index was published.
There was rare good news for Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring, which rose seven places, and Latin American giants Brazil and Mexico.
Mongolia saw the greatest improvement of any country, up 34 places to 54th.
Conflict, religious censorship and the rise of non-state actors such as Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant and Boko Haram were among the main reasons for decline in press freedom.
In Europe and the West, censorship on “spurious” national security grounds and “desire on the part of some member states to compromise on freedom of information”.