Bulgaria and Greece rank last in EU press freedoms

13.02.14 @ 09:26

  1. By Nikolaj Nielsen
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BRUSSELS - Bulgaria and Greece rank at the bottom of EU countries in terms of press freedom.

  • Thirty one European countries rank among the top 50 best performers in the press freedom index (Photo: Hindrik S)

The findings are part of a larger report out on Wednesday (12 February) by the Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

It ranks the press freedom of 180 countries by looking at the levels of abuse, the extent of pluralism, media independence, self-censorship, the legislative framework, transparency, and infrastructure.

Placed at 100 and 99, respectively, both Bulgaria and Greece are below dozens of non-EU member states, including Kyrgyzstan and Liberia.

Investigative and independent journalists in Bulgaria are subject to police violence and harassment, it says.

Greece, for its part, has dropped 50 places in the index in the space of five years.

“This is a dizzying fall for the world’s oldest democracy,” notes the report.

Years of clientalism, closure of media outlets, attacks by neo-Nazi group Golden Dawn, and police abuse are among the reasons for the decline.

At 65, the EU’s newest member state, Croatia, is ranked the third worst offender among EU countries, followed closely by Hungary.

But larger EU member states like the UK and France have also slipped.

Reporters Without Borders head of research Lucie Morillon said the ranking of some countries has been “impacted by an overly broad and abusive interpretation of the concept of national security protection.”

The UK dropped three points to 33 following its harassment of The Guardian newspaper and the partner of its former top journalist Glenn Greenwald.

Two agents from the British intelligence agency GCHQ forced Guardian editors last summer to destroy hard drives containing leaked documents from US whistleblower Edward Snowden.

The report notes that both the US and UK authorities “seem obsessed with hunting down whistleblowers instead of adopting legislation to rein in abusive surveillance practices that negate privacy.”

France slipped a point to 39, just behind El Salvador, after a court order forced Mediapart and Le Point to remove recordings and transcripts from their websites in a scandal that implicated former President Nicolas Sarkozy.

There are some improvements. Italy is putting together a new law that would decriminalise defamation via the media.

Meanwhile, Finland, Norway and Netherlands remain the top performers.

The report notes “a real culture of individual freedoms” supported by constitutional and legal frameworks exist in all three countries.

The index ranks Eritrea, North Korea, and Turkmenistan as the overall worst offenders.