On May 3, World Press Freedom Day, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) published its traditional World Press Freedom Index. The survey reflects world’s general processes in the press sphere as well as the situation in each country.
The 20th edition of the RSF Press Freedom Index assesses the press environment in 180 countries and regions, revealing the serious problems in the media environment where regulations are lax, disinformation channels are widespread due to social media networks.
As for the international arena, there is an open confrontation between democratic and authoritarian countries.
Added to this can be that in many countries, the media are controlled by the authorities or by oligarchs. Within the year, the number of countries in such a state has increased. Thus, 12 countries are in the red part of the list – these are countries with non-free press, including Belarus (153rd place), Azerbaijan (154th), Russia (155th). It should be noted that a year ago Azerbaijan was on the 166th position. The improvement in the rating does not at all mean any changes in the state of the press or the policy of the authorities. There is simply no one to suppress.
The worst situation is in North Korea (180th place), Eritrea (179th), Iran (178th), Turkmenistan (177th) and China (176th).
When determining the level of press freedom, RSF experts took into account political, economic, legislative and other factors in each country, as well as the policies of their governments.
In this sense, the Scandinavian countries, led by Norway, turned out to be the freest countries once again. Estonia (4th place) and Lithuania (9th) are among the ten freest.
At the last place on the European continent it is Greece (108th place) that has overtaken Bulgaria (91st). This evolution and this disparity is reflective of three main trends: first, journalists in the European Union are being murdered again – Giorgos Karaivaz in Greece and Peter R. de Fries in the Netherlands were shot dead in cold blood, in completely Mafia-style. The perpetrators of the murders of Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta (78th) and Jan Kuciak in Slovakia (27th), have still not been convicted.
In eastern Europe, besides the human tragedies, the war Russia is waging in Ukraine has had devastating consequences for press freedom. In the first month of the Russian offensive, which began on February 24, 2022, at least five journalists and media workers were killed by shelling. The Russian army in the occupied territories deliberately targeted news sources and tried to coerce local media. In Russia itself, the government has imposed total control over information, imposing extensive military censorship, blocking the media, and persecuting recalcitrant journalists and forcing them to emigrate en masse.
In the Caucasus countries, media outlets are sometimes blocked by the Russian regulator when their articles displease the authorities, and media in Central Asia are pressured by local authorities to be more “neutral” in their coverage of the conflict.
In Turkey, the super-presidential system and authoritarianism of Recep Tayyip Erdogan are accompanied by denial of press freedom and interference in the judicial system.