World Press Freedom day — created to celebrate the achievements of the free press — is an opportunity to reflect on the economic benefits of a free media.

A free press bridges the information gap between people and government, holding governments accountable and promoting justice and democracy.

Verdict has compared the GDP per capita of 191 countries around the world to their World Press Freedom Index ranking in 2018 — compiled by Reporters Sans Frontieres (RSF) — to see whether a free press and economic prosperity go hand-in-hand.

Scroll down for full press freedom ranking

The five countries with the highest GDP per capita in the world all ranked in the top 20 for their open press.

Norway and Switzerland, two of the top five countries for media independence, also rank in the top five countries with the highest per capita income.

Norway ranked number one on the press freedom index, and came fifth for GDP per capita.

The small country of Luxembourg, which enjoys the highest GDP per capita of any country in the world at $105,803 per head, comes 17th in terms of press freedom.

Almost all of the top ten highest GDP per capita states ranked in the top 20 for a free press.

The exceptions were oil-rich Qatar and the city state of Singapore, with some of the most draconian press laws in the world, despite their large economies.

One of the six Gulf monarchies, Qatar ranks 125th on the press freedom index, while Singapore trails in at 151st.

RSF analysts said:

The Middle East’s countries are yet again at the bottom of RSF’s World Press Freedom Index. Armed conflicts, terrorism charges against independent journalists and media, and growing online surveillance and censorship make reporting extremely dangerous for the region’s journalists.

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In relation to Singapore RSF said:

The Chinese model of state-controlled news and information is being copied in other Asian countries, especially Vietnam and Cambodia. North Asia’s democracies are struggling to establish themselves as alternative models.

Violence against journalists is increasingly worrying in Afghanistan, India, Pakistan and the Philippines.

The World Press Freedom Index measures 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists based on evaluations of pluralism, independent media, media law and safety of journalists in each country. The GDP per capita data used is courtesy of the International Monetary Fund.

Rank

Ranked by GDP per capita 2017 (IMF)

GDP per capita ($)

Press freedom ranking

1
Luxembourg
105,803
17
2
Switzerland
80,591
5
3
Norway
74,941
1
4
Ireland
70,638
16
5
Iceland
70,332
13
6
Qatar
60,804
125
7
United States
59,501
45
8
Singapore
57,713
151
9
Denmark
56,444
9
10
Australia
55,707
19
11
Sweden
53,218
2
12
Netherlands
48,346
3
13
Austria
47,290
11
14
Hong Kong SAR
46,109
70
15
Finland
46,017
4
16
Canada
45,077
18
17
Germany
44,550
15
18
Belgium
43,582
7
19
New Zealand
41,593
8
20
Israel
40,258
87
21
France
39,869
33
22
United Kingdom
39,735
40
23
Japan
38,440
67
24
United Arab Emirates
37,226
128
25
Italy
31,984
46
26
Korea, Republic of
29,891
43
27
Brunei Darussalam
29,712
153
28
Spain
28,359
31
29
Kuwait
27,319
105
30
Malta
27,250
65
31
Cyprus
24,976
25
32
Taiwan Province of China
24,577
42
33
Bahrain
24,029
166
34
Slovenia
23,654
32
35
Portugal
21,161
14
36
Saudi Arabia
21,120
169
37
Czech Republic
20,152
34
38
Estonia
19,840
12
39
Greece
18,637
74
40
Oman
17,973
127
41
Slovak Republic
17,664
27
42
Lithuania
16,730
36
43
Uruguay
16,722
20
44
Antigua and Barbuda
16,702
39
45
Trinidad and Tobago
15,769
39
46
Seychelles
15,686
85
47
Latvia
15,547
24
48
Hungary
15,531
73
49
Panama
15,089
91
50
Chile
15,070
38
51
Argentina
14,467
52
52
Poland
13823
58
53
Croatia
13,138
69
54
Equatorial Guinea
12,727
171
55
Maldives
12,527
120
56
Costa Rica
11,685
10
57
Lebanon
11,409
100
58
Romania
10,757
44
59
Russian Federation
10,608
148
60
Turkey
10,512
157
61
Brazil
9,895
102
62
Malaysia
9,813
145
63
Mauritius
9,794
56
64
Mexico
9,304
147
65
Kazakhstan
8,841
158
66
China, People’s Republic of
8,643
176
67
Bulgaria
8,064
111
68
Gabon
7,972
108
69
Botswana
7,877
48
70
Montenegro
7,647
103
71
Dominican Republic
7,375
59
72
Peru
6,762
88
73
Venezuela
6,684
143
74
Turkmenistan
6,643
178
75
Thailand
6,591
140
76
Colombia
6,273
130
77
South Africa
6,180
28
78
Ecuador
6,098
92
79
Serbia
5,899
76
80
Belarus
5,760
155
81
Suriname
5,746
21
82
Fiji
5,740
57
83
Jordan
5,678
132
84
FYR Macedonia
5,474
109
85
Namibia
5,413
26
86
Iran
5,305
164
87
Bosnia and Herzegovina
5,149
62
88
Iraq
5,088
160
89
Jamaica
5,048
6
90
Libya
4,859
162
91
Belize
4,806
47
92
Guyana
4,710
55
93
Albania
4,583
75
94
Guatemala
4,472
116
95
Angola
4,408
121
96
El Salvador
4,400
66
97
Algeria
4,292
136
98
Paraguay
4,260
107
99
Samoa
4,253
22
100
Tonga
4,177
51
101
Azerbaijan
4,141
163
102
Georgia
4,099
61
103
Sri Lanka
4,085
131
104
Swaziland
3,915
152
105
Kosovo
3,880
78
106
Indonesia
3,876
124
107
Armenia
3,861
80
108
Mongolia
3,640
71
109
Tunisia
3,496
97
110
Bolivia
3,353
110
111
Cabo Verde
3,238
29
112
Morocco
3,151
135
113
Philippines
2,976
133
114
Bhutan
2,903
94
115
Papua New Guinea
2,861
53
116
Honduras
2,766
141
117
Ukraine
2,583
101
118
Egypt
2,501
161
119
Vietnam
2,354
175
120
Moldova
2,280
81
121
Nicaragua
2,207
90
122
Timor-Leste
2,104
95
123
Nigeria
1,994
119
124
Djibouti
1,989
173
125
India
1,983
138
126
Congo, Republic of
1,958
114
127
Kenya
1,702
96
128
Ghana
1,663
23
129
Côte d’Ivoire
1,617
82
130
Bangladesh
1602
146
131
Pakistan
1,541
139
132
Uzbekistan
1,491
165
133
Zambia
1,480
113
134
Sudan
1,428
174
135
Lesotho
1,425
68
136
Cameroon
1,401
129
137
Cambodia
1,390
142
138
Mauritania
1,318
72
139
Myanmar
1,264
137
140
Zimbabwe
1,176
126
141
Kyrgyz Republic
1,144
162
142
Senegal
1,038
50
143
Tanzania
1,034
93
144
Eritrea
980
179
145
Ethiopia
873
150
146
Nepal
834
106
147
Benin
830
84
148
Tajikistan
824
149
149
Mali
811
115
150
Chad
810
123
151
Guinea-Bissau
794
83
152
Comoros
788
49
153
Haiti
784
60
154
Rwanda
772
156
155
Guinea
749
171
156
Liberia
729
89
157
Uganda
699
117
158
Burkina Faso
664
41
159
Togo
611
86
160
Afghanistan
588
118
161
Yemen
551
167
162
Sierra Leone
491
79
163
Gambia, The
480
122
164
Congo, Dem. Rep. of the
478
154
165
Madagascar
448
54
166
Niger
440
63
167
Mozambique
429
99
168
Central African Republic
387
112
169
Malawi
324
64
170
Burundi
312
159
171
South Sudan, Republic of
228
144
172
Syria
No data
177

None of the 15 former Soviet states were among the top 40 fastest growing economies of the last year, while 67% of countries that were part of the Soviet bloc fell into the bottom 100 countries for lowest GDP per capital, out of 191 states.

Around two-thirds of former Soviet countries ranked near or below 150 on the press freedom index.

The two countries with the some of the lowest GDP in the bloc were Uzbekistan and authoritarian Tajikistan who ranked 165 and 149 for their respective press freedoms.

RSF said:

The Soviet region’s overall indicator has sunk almost as low as that of Middle East/North Africa, the region that is last in the ranking by region.

Bucking the trend, Turkey boasted a 7.4% GDP growth rate in 2017 while in the same year leading global declines in press freedom.

Media crackdowns by Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan caused the country to fall two places as the number of jailed journalists hit a historic high for the second year running.

Peter Leeson, who has researched the patterns of media freedom and economic development for decades, thinks that if governments own or control the media, it can damage economic growth.

He told Verdict:

We find that outlet ownership is important, but not the only or most significant determinant of media manipulation.

Additionally, we find that media manipulation has a deleterious effect on information credibility that destroys the possibility for economic reform and improved economic performance.

Although an independent media is not sufficient to create prosperity, our analysis, which supports the work of others, suggests that it is necessary.

Economies flourish when government is checked, and government is checked by press freedom. To improve wealth, health, and liberty, get government out of the business of producing, subsidizing, and regulating media.

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The Trump effect

The 2018 World Press Freedom Index warned of growing animosity towards the mainstream media around the world and this trend of hostility extended to countries traditionally committed to a free press.

Under President Donald Trump the US has fallen in the freedom charts. Trump has branded journalists as “enemies of the people” and accused them of spreading “fake news”.

According to the 2018 RSF report:

The US, the country of the first amendment, has fallen again in the Index under Donald Trump, this time two places to 45th.

Yet amidst Trump’s sustained attacks on the media on Twitter and elsewhere, the US economy is flourishing. US employment is falling, sinking to 4.1% in December, which is close to one of its lowest recorded level of 3.9% in 2001.

At the same time the US economy is growing, and the stock market is having a record run.

The US economy grew at a 2.9% annual rate in the fourth quarter of 2017, according to the latest US Commerce Department figures.

GDP per capita tells a similar story — growing 2.6% year-on-year in December 2017.