Tuesday

10th Dec 2019

Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom

  • Bulgaria's PM Borissov (Photo: Valentina Pop)

Press freedom in Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta ranks among the worst in the world, according to Reporters Without Borders (RSF), a Paris-based NGO.

From journalists' murders to media take-overs by oligarchs close to state powers, the three EU states were portrayed as an embarrassment for the European Union.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 30-day free trial.

... or join as a group

Released on Thursday (18 April), the RSF annual report looked at 180 countries and found that Bulgaria was by far the poorest when it came to EU member states.

The country held the EU's rotating presidency only last year.

But the murder of TV journalist Viktoria Marinova in October, followed by a botched investigation, and collusion between corrupt politicians, oligarchs and media, have earned Bulgaria a ranking of 111, where 1 is the best and 180 the worst.

That meant press freedoms in Ethiopia and Angola were now marginally better than in an EU member country.

China, Russia and Turkey by comparison, respectively, scored 177, 149, and 157.

Meanwhile, Hungary was not much ahead of Bulgaria at 87.

The rule of prime minister Viktor Orban has seen independent media squeezed and critical outlets shut down.

Earlier this year, Orban's Fidesz government used its control of some 500 media outlets, including all regional papers and public broadcasters, to peddle xenophobia and misleading messages on migration.

"On the streets, on the papers, on internet websites and in broadcast media, you will come across these lies," Marta Pardavi, who co-chairs the Budapest-based Hungarian Helsinki Committee, told this website in February.

Hungary, along with Poland, have both been slapped with the so-called Article 7 procedure that could strip them of their voting rights at the Council over wider and "systemic" abuses of EU values and rule of law,

But the sanctions procedure has been bogged down under a Romanian EU presidency whose political masters in Bucharest are themselves under fire for similar problems.

The still-unresolved murder of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia, 18 months after her death, also remains a blight in a country whose government has refused calls for an independent public inquiry.

Malta's prime minister Joseph Muscat is even pursuing libel cases against the late journalist, whose reporting uncovered kick-back schemes and shady government ties to Azerbaijan and Russia.

The island-nation came in at 77 on the RSF global press freedom index.

The NGO's report noted that most media in Malta were owned by political parties and that the pro-government state broadcaster failed to report on high-level corruption.

Caruana Galizia had led the Maltese side of the Panama Papers investigation, which exposed offshore accounts of political figures who remain state ministers to this day.

Among them is tourism minister Konrad Mizzi, who filed a case in Malta this week claiming that further probes into Panama Papers revelations would violate his human rights.

Norway ranks as having the world's best press freedoms, followed by EU states Finland, Sweden, and the Netherlands.

EU says Hungary's anti-Juncker campaign is fake news

The European Commission has branded the latest campaign by the Hungarian government as 'fake news', after Orban's government accused Juncker of pressing ahead with migration proposals that threaten the country's security.

Interview

Bulgarian 'EU passports' whistleblower wants justice

Katya Mateva, a former director in Bulgaria's ministry of justice turned whistleblower, says high-ranking politicians behind a scam leading to Bulgarian citizenship are likely to go unpunished.

Former Malta opposition leader fears for his life

Simon Busuttil spent 10 years as an MEP before returning to Malta to lead the opposition. He now fears for his life amid probes into high-level corruption in Malta's government.

Opinion

Orban-style 'media capture' is spreading across Europe

We hear a lot about the threats of social media and misinformation to our democracies. What we don't hear about is another anti-democratic disease that has already claimed multiple victims across the continent - 'media capture'.

News in Brief

  1. Orban wants bill to tighten grip over theatres
  2. Dutch reduce terror threat level for first time since 2013
  3. Russia banned from Olympics over doping scandal
  4. EU agrees future human rights sanctions
  5. Greens demand Zahradil conflict of interest probe
  6. EU commission to 'correct mistake' on enlargement
  7. Luxembourg pushes EU to recognise Palestine
  8. Minister: 'All Brussels kids should be trilingual at 18'

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of Ministers40 years of experience have proven its point: Sustainable financing actually works
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic and Baltic ministers paving the way for 5G in the region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersEarmarked paternity leave – an effective way to change norms
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Climate Action Weeks in December
  5. UNESDAUNESDA welcomes Nicholas Hodac as new Director General
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersBrussels welcomes Nordic culture

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNESDAUNESDA appoints Nicholas Hodac as Director General
  2. UNESDASoft drinks industry co-signs Circular Plastics Alliance Declaration
  3. FEANIEngineers Europe Advisory Group: Building the engineers of the future
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNew programme studies infectious diseases and antibiotic resistance
  5. UNESDAUNESDA reduces added sugars 11.9% between 2015-2017
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsEU-Uzbekistan Human Rights Dialogue: EU to raise key fundamental rights issues

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us