Wednesday

24th Apr 2019

Greece plummets in press freedom ranking

  • The situation for journalists in Europe has worsened (Photo: The Council of the European Union)

More than half of the EU's 27 countries score badly in the annual press freedom index carried out by the Paris-based NGO Reporters without Borders - a negative trend compared to previous years, even though three EU members are the freest places in the world in which to be a journalist.

"It is disturbing to see several European Union member countries continuing to fall in the index. If it does not pull itself together, the EU risks losing its position as world leader in respect for human rights," Reporters Without Borders secretary-general Jean-Francois Julliard said in a statement accompanying the study on Wednesday (20 October).

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

Thirteen of the EU's 27 members are in the world top 20. But some of the other 14 stand very low while the gap between good and bad performers continues to widen, the report says.

The poor performers include France and Italy, where events in the past year – violation of the protection of journalists' sources, concentration of media ownership, displays of contempt by government officials and judicial summonses - continue to follow a negative line.

Italy, where some 10 journalists still live under police protection, stayed in 49th place out of 178, scoring worse than Bosnia and sharing the same position as Burkina Faso.

Greece got the worst marks in the EU, plummeting a huge 35 places to 70, where it now sits alongside the bloc's other meida villain, Bulgaria.

The Greek plunge is due to political unrest and related physical attacks on journalists. Athens was also criticised for "political meddling," going so far as to ask the German government to apologise for nasty headlines about the Greek economic crisis in the Stern magazine.

Romania went down two places to 52. Reporters Without Borders noted that the government now considers the media a threat to national security and plans to censor activities.

Recently published wiretaps of conversations between one of Romania's most influential media owners, Sorin Ovidiu Vantu, and various journalists and politicians show a staggering disrespect for press rights.

"You are not free, sonny," he told one of the directors of his media trust. "If you're OK with it, you work, if you're not, you leave, what's the big deal?"

Defending Mr Vantu's own "interests" - he is currently under criminal investigation for helping a fugitive - has become one of the core tasks of his TV and print outlets. "If I have an interest, then the whole media trust has that interest. Any dissident will be fired. Everybody has all the freedom in the world: They can leave when they want if they don't like it," he said.

At the top end, Finland, Sweden and the Netherlands share the pole position with non-EU members Norway, Iceland and Switzerland. The group-of-six has held the top score since the index was created in 2002.

Iceland won special praise for its bill, the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative (IMMI), to provide a unique level of legal protection for reporters.

The survey did not mention the strange case of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange in Sweden. Swedish prosecutors earlier this year published details of a sexual assault charge against Mr Assange hot on the heels of his publication of US military secrets in what some media watchdogs feared was a US-backed smear campaign.

In Denmark, which holds 11th place, murder attempts against Mohammed cartoonists Kurt Westergaard and Lars Vilks, could create a climate of self-censorship, Reporters Without Borders warned.

The survey also pointed to serious violations on the EU's doorstep.

EU candidate Turkey was placed in 138th place, next to Ethiopia (139) and Russia (140). The NGO spoke of a "frenzied proliferation of lawsuits [and] incarcerations" of reporters.

EU aspirant Ukraine placed at 131. "Censorship has signalled its return, particularly in the audiovisual sector," the study said on the return to power of Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukoych.

EU parliament backs whistleblower law

MEPs backed an EU law to protect whistleblowers from retaliation in both the public and private sectors. EU states will have two years to transpose the directive.

EU commission to map gender recognition

The European Commission will start looking at how EU states determine genders - as part of an effort to make it easier for people to determine their own identities.

EU to propose scrapping summer time change

Based on the preliminary results of an online survey in which mostly Germans took part, the EU executive is proposing that the whole EU stops changing times in March and October.

Investigation

How to get around the EU posted workers directive

Some EU careworkers in Belgium receive around €400 a month - despite their carers paying €2,500 a month and paying for flights and accommodation. The answer lies in how firms can skirt the safeguards in the EU's posted workers directive.

News in Brief

  1. Political deadlock looms at Sunday's Spanish election
  2. Le Pen in Copenhagen for talks with new key ally
  3. Trump to meet May and Macron on Europe visit in June
  4. Johnson's sister to run in EU elections on new list
  5. Weber pledges to 'block' Nord Stream 2 as president
  6. UK warns migrants not to cross 'dangerous' Channel
  7. Austria's FPO publishes racist poem
  8. Spanish party leaders spar over Catalonia

Feature

Romania enlists priests to promote euro switchover plan

Romania is due to join the single currency in 2024 - despite currently only meeting one of the four criteria. Now the government in Bucharest is enlisting an unlikely ally to promote the euro to the public: the clergy.

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Counter BalanceSign the petition to help reform the EU’s Bank
  2. UNICEFChild rights organisations encourage candidates for EU elections to become Child Rights Champions
  3. UNESDAUNESDA Outlines 2019-2024 Aspirations: Sustainability, Responsibility, Competitiveness
  4. Counter BalanceRecord citizens’ input to EU bank’s consultation calls on EIB to abandon fossil fuels
  5. International Partnership for Human RightsAnnual EU-Turkmenistan Human Rights Dialogue takes place in Ashgabat
  6. Nordic Council of MinistersNew campaign: spot, capture and share Traces of North
  7. Nordic Council of MinistersLeading Nordic candidates go head-to-head in EU election debate
  8. Nordic Council of MinistersNew Secretary General: Nordic co-operation must benefit everybody
  9. Platform for Peace and JusticeMEP Kati Piri: “Our red line on Turkey has been crossed”
  10. UNICEF2018 deadliest year yet for children in Syria as war enters 9th year
  11. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic commitment to driving global gender equality
  12. International Partnership for Human RightsMeet your defender: Rasul Jafarov leading human rights defender from Azerbaijan

Latest News

  1. Weber vow to block Nord Stream 2 amid 'sue' threat
  2. 'Next Juncker' must fix EU's corporate power problem
  3. EU want Facebook pan-EU advert fix for May elections
  4. Ukraine comic-president invited to EU capitals
  5. Trump's Israel plan to 'test' EU resolve
  6. Romania drafts EU code on NGO migrant rescues
  7. Bulgaria, Hungary, and Malta shamed on press unfreedom
  8. EU drafts $20bn US sanctions list in aviation dispute

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. UNICEFUNICEF Hosts MEPs in Jordan Ahead of Brussels Conference on the Future of Syria
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic talks on parental leave at the UN
  3. International Partnership for Human RightsTrial of Chechen prisoner of conscience and human rights activist Oyub Titiev continues.
  4. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic food policy inspires India to be a sustainable superpower
  5. Nordic Council of MinistersMilestone for Nordic-Baltic e-ID
  6. Counter BalanceEU bank urged to free itself from fossil fuels and take climate leadership
  7. Intercultural Dialogue PlatformRoundtable: Muslim Heresy and the Politics of Human Rights, Dr. Matthew J. Nelson
  8. Platform for Peace and JusticeTurkey suffering from the lack of the rule of law
  9. UNESDASoft Drinks Europe welcomes Tim Brett as its new president
  10. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers take the lead in combatting climate change
  11. Counter BalanceEuropean Parliament takes incoherent steps on climate in future EU investments
  12. International Partnership For Human RightsKyrgyz authorities have to immediately release human rights defender Azimjon Askarov

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us