Press freedom suffered a “drastic decline” between October 2013 and October 2014, according to Reporters Without Borders. Wars, extremist and nonstate groups, censorship and economic crises were among the reasons for this drop, the organization said in its annual index.

The Paris-based group, known by the acronym RSF, documented 3,719 violations of freedom of information in 2014 – up 8 percent from the same period a year earlier. It said two-thirds of surveyed countries “performed less well than in the previous year.”

RSF’s index covers 180 countries and is in line with recent reports by the Committee to Protect Journalists that highlight the global decline of press freedom.

Among RSF’s findings:

  • The ongoing conflicts in the Middle East and Ukraine have created “a fearsome information war.” One result: news media personnel are murdered, captured or pressured into relaying propaganda.
  • Extremist groups like Daesh and Boko Haram, and criminal organizations use “fear and reprisals to silence journalists and bloggers who dare to investigate or refuse to act as their mouthpieces.”
  • There are lawless areas in parts of North Africa and the Middle East under the control of extremists and other nonstate groups where “independent information simply does not exist.”
  • In nearly half of the world, laws criminalizing blasphemy are used to undermine freedom of information, and religious extremists target journalists or bloggers they believe insufficiently respectful of their god or prophet.
  • Although Finland, the Netherlands and Norway scored highest, the European continent in general has been “drifting downwards in the press freedom index for years,” due to government interference in the news media, and declining transparency and diversity of media ownership.
  • Iran, China and Syria were near the bottom of the list; Eritrea, North Korea and Turkmenistan scored lowest.

RSF bases its annual index on an 87-question survey it sends to hundreds of journalists, researchers, lawyers and human rights activists around the world. The survey focuses on media diversity and independence, work environment, self-censorship concerns, the legal system, institutional transparency and media infrastructure.