A new report from Reporters Without Borders highlights growing threats to the free press in a record number of countries.
The 2023 World Press Freedom Index finds the most dangerous countries to be Vietnam, China, and North Korea, as authoritarian leaders become bolder in their attempts to silence journalists.
Also on the list are Syria and Russia, where American journalists are currently being held captive.
Russian authorities arrested Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter, five weeks ago on espionage charges, and Austin Tice, a freelance journalist, and former Marine, has been held hostage in Syria for nearly 11 years.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken gave an update on both men during a speech at a Washington Post event in honor of World Press Freedom Day.
“I wish I could say in this moment there was a clear way forward. We don’t have that in this moment, but it’s something we’re working towards every day,” Blinken said.
He went on to say the U.S. Ambassador to Russia met with Gershkovich about a week ago and reported he was in strong spirits.
“We’re intensely engaged with the Russians to seek his freedom to seek immediate release,” Blinken said.
As for Tice, he hasn’t been seen since 2012, when a video was released showing the moment he was blindfolded and put into a van.
Speaking at the National Press Club this week, his mother, Debra Tice, said she doesn’t believe the U.S. is seriously negotiating for her son’s release.
“I find the State Department to be exceedingly profoundly anti-Syria, anti-engagement with Syria, and really unwilling to move on that,” she said.
Blinken said that’s not the case.
“Often we’re engaged in efforts to get people home that we can’t talk about even with the families. What I can say is this. We’re extensively engaged with regard to Austin. Engaged with Syria, engaged with third countries, seeking to find a way to get him home, and we’re not going to relent until we do,” Blinken said.
President Joe Biden honored both Tice and Gershkovich over the weekend at the White House Correspondents Dinner.
“Tonight, our message is this: Journalism is not a crime. Evan and Austin should be released immediately along with every other American held hostage or wrongfully detained abroad,” Biden said.
While the report considers the United States a “Satisfactory” environment for journalists, it’s dropped three places in the ranking and Pew Research finds 57 percent of journalists are concerned about possible restrictions on the press in the U.S. Those who have been in the business longer are more likely to be concerned.
In a statement released Wednesday, Biden called the press a, “pillar of Democracy,” and said his administration would, “continute to support a free press.”