Some Pacific governments are trying to restrict the media and silence opposition voices, says a new report from global civil society alliance Civicus.
The report on civil rights in 14 Pacific countries rates eight as open and three as narrowed, while Fiji, Nauru and Papua New Guniea remain in the obstructed category.
Civicus researcher Josef Benedict said Australia had been downgraded because of laws he feared other Pacific countries might try to adopt.
"Sadly we have downgraded Australia from open to narrowed. Over the last year we have seen attempts to undermine press freedom... and there's also been an area of laws that we are concerned about that undermine the right to privacy.
"Pacific countries are looking at Australia. We may see duplication of some of these laws in the future and that's quite worrying for Civicus."
Mr Benedict said media censorship had been documented in five Pacific countries in the past year.