Wednesday

22nd May 2019

Europe 'drifting downwards' on press freedom

  • 'Europe has been drifting downwards in the press freedom index for years' (Photo: Ed Yourdon)

Although European countries still rank top of Reporters without Borders' annual press freedom index, published Thursday (12 February), the organisation found that press freedom in Europe has been declining in absolute terms.

“The EU appears to be swamped by a certain desire on the part of some member states to compromise on freedom of information”, the Paris-based NGO body said.

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Support quality EU news

Get instant access to all articles — and 18 year's of archives. 30 days free trial.

... or join as a group

The index ranks 180 countries based on both qualitative and quantitative criteria regarding freedom of information.

European countries are still doing relatively well, with 16 of the top 20 spots belonging to European nations. Finland tops the list, as it did last year, followed by Norway, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden.

But the relatively good performance hides the decline in absolute scores. Almost all European countries in the top 20 performed worse than a year ago. Belgium improved both in relative and absolute terms.

“Europe has been drifting downwards in the press freedom index for years”, the organisation noted.

“It held steady in last year’s index but, overall, it fell again in the 2015 index although the Nordic countries continued to hold the top positions. This general decline reinforces concern about the sustainability of the 'European model'.”

Even the winner receives a scolding.

“In Finland, growing competition drove media groups into mergers in order to be able to lay off staff … A collateral effect of the reduction in the number of newsrooms was a loss of independence.”

The scores vary across Europe, even across the EU: Europe's best and worst performers are over a hundred spots apart.

Non-EU countries Macedonia (117) and Montenegro (114) did worst on the continent.

Bulgaria, an EU member since 2007, is ranked at 106, down six places from last year.

“The Financial Oversight Commission, a government agency [in Bulgaria], has in practice been turned into a media cop. Imposing fines and ordering journalists to reveal their sources, it clearly betrays a government desire to silence media that dare to point out problems in banks and the regulatory system", the report said.

Greece (91) climbed in the ranking “because the government finally seemed to take appropriate measures to combat the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn, which has no qualms about using violence against journalists”.

Hungary (65), often criticised on media freedoms by EU officials, was under fire because "prime minister Viktor Orban has continued to hound the independent media".

But it still did better than Italy (73), which performed relatively badly because of a “disturbing increase in violence against journalists”, but also because of “abusive defamation suits”.

Another regular recipient of EU criticism on media freedom is Turkey, which performed slightly better than last year, but still lingers in the bottom quarter at 149.

The five least-free countries regarding media, says the report, are Eritrea, North Korea, Turkmenistan, Syria, and China.

This article originally said that all European countries in the top 20 performed worse than a year ago. The article has been corrected to say that Belgium did improve, both relatively and in absolute terms.

Opinion

Europe to make media, media to make Europe

Europe is a machine that makes peace, not war. But one part of its peace arsenal should be independent, transnational media and foreign language broadcasts.

European reporters' unions want EU to back journalism as ‘public good'

In response to the crisis of journalism in Europe, journalists' unions from across the continent are to launch a campaign to press the EU to encourage member states to strengthen the sector. If governments can fund theatre and art galleries to protect cultural pluralism, they say, they can fund journalism to protect information pluralism as well.

Opinion

My boss, the 'terrorist'

Only Russia ranks lower than Turkey in terms of press freedom in Europe, as Erdogan becomes ever more brazen.

EU faces moment of truth at midnight on Sunday

Voters in the world's second-biggest election, the European Parliament ballot, will know before midnight on Sunday to what extent a foretold far-right surge has come to be.

News in Brief

  1. Poll: Denmark set to double number of liberal MEPs
  2. European brands 'breaking' chemical safety rules
  3. Report: Merkel was lobbied to accept EU top job
  4. May struggling to get Brexit deal passed at fourth vote
  5. German MPs show interest in 'Magnitsky' sanctions
  6. CoE: Rights violations in Hungary 'must be addressed'
  7. EU affairs ministers rubber-stamp new ban on plastics
  8. Private companies campaign to boost turnout in EU poll

Happy young Finns don't vote in EU elections

In Finland, only 10 percent of 18-24-year-olds voted at the previous EU elections in 2014. General satisfaction with the status quo of the EU membership could explain why youngsters do not feel like they need to vote.

Magazine

All about the European Parliament elections 2019

EUobserver's new magazine is meant to help readers prepare for the European Parliament elections, no matter their level of knowledge. You can download and read the entire magazine now.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Vote for the EU Sutainable Energy AwardsCast your vote for your favourite EUSEW Award finalist. You choose the winner of 2019 Citizen’s Award.
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersEducation gets refugees into work
  3. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  4. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  5. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  6. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  7. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  9. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  11. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  12. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us