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“We were riding in a state of shock,” he said.

The Canadian government attained their release after seven weeks. Now, Mr. Greyson campaigns for the government to do the same for Mohamed Fahmy, a Canadian-Egyptian journalist who has been imprisoned for more than a month in Cairo.

Several other journalists are also in custody.

“The world is watching, and we’re trying to make as much noise as we can,” Mr. Greyson said.

Ms. Halgand said a theme emerging in this year’s survey is the rise of private nonstate groups posing threats to journalists, what she called a “privatization of violence.” Latin American journalists, for example, have experienced threats from organized crime groups.

Countries falling the furthest from the previous year’s survey included the civil-war-wracked Central African Republic (down 43 spots to 109), Guatemala (down 29 spots) and Kenya (down 18 slots). Four journalists were killed in Guatemala last year alone.

Other countries have risen on the index after declining rates of violence against journalists, censorship and misuse of judicial proceedings. These include Panama (up 25 positions to No. 87), the Dominican Republic (up 13 slots) and Ecuador (gaining 25 positions).

“They are not perfectly safe at all, but we saw some improvement,” Ms. Halgand said.

Finland, the Netherlands and Norway continue to hold the top three spots on the index, and European countries hold the top 16 spots in the 180-nation survey.

But not all European countries registered progress in press freedoms. Ratings for Greece and Hungary fell because of economic crises and increases in nationalistic populism.

“It’s definitely a case that we need continued vigilance on the issues on media freedom and freedom of expression,” Ms. Karlekar said.