Press Freedom in Europe and Beyond (Part. 4)

Freedom of information, a cornerstone of democratic societies, remains under siege in many parts of the world. In Europe and neighboring regions, the struggle for an unfettered press persists, with some countries witnessing significant declines in press freedom. This blog post delves into the World Press Freedom Index for 2013 to understand the state of press freedom in these regions.

Europe: A Mixed Bag

While many European nations uphold strong press freedom traditions, this report highlights several concerning trends.

Hungary (56th, -16): Hungary pays the price for repressive legislation affecting journalism. Freedom of the press faces tangible challenges in this European nation.

Greece (84th, -14): Greece faces a disastrous atmosphere for journalism, marked by social and professional turmoil. Journalists encounter violence from extremists, police, and, notably, ultra-violent neo-Nazi activists from the Golden Dawn party.

Italy (57th, +4): Italy experienced legislative hemorrhage in 2012. The decriminalization of defamation remains unachieved, and dangerous “gagging laws” continue to be used by institutions.

France (37th, +1): Despite high hopes under a new government, France’s press freedom has stagnated as progress on good intentions remains pending.

Croatia (64th, +4) and Serbia (63rd, +17): These Balkan countries have seen mixed results. Legislative reforms have improved the press freedom situation, but old challenges and obstacles remain.

Albania (102nd, -6), Montenegro (113th, -6), Macedonia (116th, -22): The Balkans report judicial harassment, restricted access to public data, physical and psychological violence against media workers, and challenges related to advertising markets and the gray economy. These issues hinder the right to report the news and the public’s right to access it.

Eastern Europe and Central Asia: Racing to the Bottom

Eastern Europe and Central Asia also reveal concerning trends.

Turkey (154th, -6): Despite its vibrant media landscape, Turkey’s press freedom is under threat. It has become the world’s largest prison for journalists due to the fight against terrorism. The state’s security concerns and the repression of criticism pose significant challenges.

Russia (148th, -6): Russia set a tone of increased repression within the former Soviet Union in 2012. The government clamped down on defamation, tightened control over the internet, and criminalized foreign funding of human rights organizations.

Ukraine (126th, -10): As Ukraine assumed the rotating chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), it registered the worst record for media since the Orange Revolution in 2004. High levels of violence against journalists remained, accompanied by total impunity.

Kazakhstan (160th, -6): Kazakhstan moved closer to an ultra-authoritarian model in 2012, with assassination attempts, arrests, and intimidation of independent journalists. The government’s oppressive policies showed disturbing signs.

Tajikistan (123rd, -1): Tajikistan’s efforts to increase censorship included monitoring the internet and frequently blocking independent news sites and social media, presenting a significant challenge to press freedom.

Azerbaijan (156th, +6) and Belarus (157th, +11): The rise of these nations represents a partial return to pre-2011 crackdowns. Journalists have been arrested, and both countries face significant press freedom challenges, often under the shadow of authoritarian leaders.

The Bottom of the List: Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan

In Turkmenistan (177th) and Uzbekistan (164th), very little has changed in recent years. Both countries maintain tight control over the internet and the media. Turkmenistan’s leader continues to build a personality cult, and Uzbekistan is known for its harsh dictatorship.

Leading Group: Moldova (55th, -2), Armenia (74th, +3), Georgia (100th, +4), Kyrgyzstan (106th, +2)

Despite variations in their positions in this index, these countries share some commonalities. They enjoy media pluralism and relatively low state censorship. However, journalists often work in polarized societies, facing pressure from various groups.

Press freedom in Europe and neighboring regions is a complex landscape, with nations experiencing varying levels of media independence and challenges. While many countries uphold their press freedom traditions, others face alarming threats and obstacles to journalism. The fight for a free press continues, and it is essential to remain vigilant in safeguarding this fundamental aspect of democracy.

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