On October 20 “Reporters without Borders“(RSF) international organization released its ninth annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index. The study was conducted in 178 countries and based on events between September 1, 2009 and September 1, 2010. RSF index was compiled by surveying 15 partner organizations and 140 correspondents of RSF, as well as journalists, researchers, lawyers and human rights activists. The respondents were assessing the press freedom in each country with a questionnaire worked up by RSF and including 43 criteria: ranging from various forms of pressure on journalists and media to legislative restrictions. Attention was also given to the level of self-censorship and of impunity, enjoyed by those responsible for press freedom violations.
Economic development, institutional reform and respect for fundamental rights do not necessarily go hand in hand, and the defense of media freedom continues to be a battle in both the democracies of old Europe and in the totalitarian regimes, the study of “Reporters without Borders” emphasizes. The RSF, specifically, marks the deteriorating press freedom situation in the European Union member states. Despite that 13 of the EU’s 27 members are in the top 20 (Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland share the first place), some of the other EU members are very low in the ranking. Thus, France is the 44th, Italy – 49th, Romania – 52nd , while Greece and Bulgaria share the 70-74th places with the other countries (the worst index among all EU countries). Like in the previous years, Turkmenistan (176), North Korea (177) and Eritrea (178) are at the bottom of the rating list.
Of the former USSR countries the most benign is the situation in Estonia (9-10), Lithuania (11-13) and Latvia (30-31). Even though, comparing with 2009, the position of Latvia has deteriorated almost twice due to the odd return to violence and self-censorship in the electoral period. The presidential elections of 2010 in Ukraine (131 versus 89-90 in 2009) have influenced its rating, too. The rankings have also drastically declined in Kyrgyzstan (159 versus 125, due to the change of power and inter-ethnic conflicts in 2010) and Kazakhstan (162 versus 142, while, as RSF notes, the country has gained notoriety through repeated attacks on the rights of the media and journalists in the very year in which it presides over OSCE, when it is bound to be subjected to particularly close scrutiny). As in the previous study, the situation of press freedom is almost the same in Tajikistan (115 versus 113), Belarus (154 versus 151) and Uzbekistan (163 versus 160). The index of Moldova (75 versus 114) has improved one and a half times. The ranking of Russia (140 versus 153), who has returned to its previous position, with the exception of 2009, which was marred by the murder of several journalists and human rights activists, has ameliorated by 13 points.
As regards the countries of South Caucasus, the index of Georgia has fell from the 81st line in 2009 to the 99-100 in 2010, the one of Azerbaijan – from 146 to 152, while the rating of Armenia has improved by 10 points (111 in 2009 versus 101-102 in 2010). Nonetheless, the reasons of the changes in the South Caucasus countries are not indicated in the RSF report.