Bad marks for Europe's press freedom

Nowhere in the world has press freedom deteriorated as drastically in the last year as in Europe, according to the index published by Reporters Without Borders. As the key causes for this negative trend the organisation cites attacks against the media by politicians, murders of journalists and stringent libel laws. Europe's media take stock of the rankings list.

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Ilta-Sanomat (FI) /

Journalists shouldn't have cause to be afraid

Ilta Sanomat complains about Finland's downgrade in the ranking index:

“From the Finnish point of view this is annoying, but the most worrying aspect is that this is the second time in a row that it has been dropped in the ranking. Just two years ago the Finnish press was the most free in the world according to this ranking index, but now it's in fourth place. ... Although Finland's position in the international ranking is still good, for us too, the trend is going in the wrong direction. In a truly free democracy the media needn't fear the politicians and journalists needn't fear the police. Otherwise there is the danger that the citizens will have reason to be scared too.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Italy's protest party bullies the press too

Two years ago the then leader of the Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S) Beppe Grillo criticised the lack of press freedom in Italy. Today his successor Di Maio stands accused of curbing that very freedom, La Repubblica points out:

“Instead of Grillo, Di Maio is now the party's leader. But just a year ago the current candidate for prime minister sent the journalists' association a list of writers who in his opinion were hurting the M5S with their investigations and reports on the Romeo bribery scandal. So Reporters without borders is clearly referring to him when it writes that M5S 'doesn't hesitate to publish the names of journalists who disturb it'. But perhaps no one had explained to Di Maio a year ago that in liberal democracies it's a serious crime to compile a blacklist.”

Deutsche Welle (BG) /

Bulgaria at 111th place: why the EU doesn't mind

Since it joined the EU eleven years ago Bulgaria has dropped 76 places to 111th on the Press Freedom Index. But Brussels is forbearing, the Bulgarian service of German state broadcaster Deutsche Welle explains:

“The EU has plenty of other problems and on the whole Bulgaria behaves like a good European. The country's finances are stable, the economy is doing well, it hasn't joined the Visegrád Group and it pursues a pragmatic refugee policy that skilfully balances border controls with a stringent stance towards the refugees and solidarity with the EU states that take in larger numbers of them. The EU is also turning a blind eye because the Bulgarian government maintains stability and [as a member of the EPP group in the European Parliament] ensures that the current political majority is maintained in the EU leadership.”

Sega (BG) /

Shocking state of affairs in Bulgaria

Bulgaria now ranks 111th on the press freedom index, 76 places lower than in 2006, shortly before the country joined the EU. Sega takes a look at the causes:

“In the age of the Internet in which media are no longer profitable because readers no longer pay for content and the advertising revenues all go to Google and Facebook, in Bulgaria the 'fourth estate' has sought out new sponsors. In Bulgaria these sponsors are those who rule the country behind the scenes, regardless of who is officially in power. The media belong to them. ... When we reflect on the fact that in 2006, a year before it joined the EU, Bulgaria ranked 35th together with France but now, eleven years later, has slid down to 111th on the index, we can get an idea of how far we have advanced in the process of European development.”

De Morgen (BE) /

Speak out against politicians' hatred of media

Reporters Without Borders has drawn attention to the fact that leading Eastern European politicians have increasingly taken to verbally attacking journalists. A worrying situation, De Morgen comments:

“At least just as worrying, however, is the fact that hatred for the media in Eastern Europe is spilling over into countries like Austria and France, which have been beacons for decades regarding press freedom. Has Belgium now been infected by mediaphobia? Fortunately not, according to the report. ... What we can accuse Belgium's top politicians of, however, is seldom raising their voices against journalist-haters like Zeman, Fico or Orbán at international forums. Apparently the question isn't important enough to risk spoiling the good atmosphere at European summits. Worrying indeed. A little more courage in this respect would be welcome.”

Sme (SK) /

Ranking leaves unanswered questions

Slovakia has dropped ten places in Reporters Without Borders' ranking. Sme shows understanding for this drop in view of recent events but is sceptical about the ranking in general:

“The murder of a journalist - the investigative reporter Ján Kuciak - aroused expectations that Slovakia would fare even worse. Paying for what you do with your own life or having to fear for your life as a 'survivor' is the very opposite of journalistic freedom. Particularly as the 'survivors' have increased their investigative work since Kuciak's murder. ... Nevertheless, when countries like Britain, France and the US are lagging behind Slovakia something can't be right with the index.”