World press freedom index: Most Balkan countries improve only numerically

Media transparency and independence are still problem areas

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Media freedom has improved numerically in seven states in South East Europe. Three countries have been deteriorating. These are the results of the new world press freedom index of the non-governmental organisation "Reporters Without Borders" (RWB). Romania, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Croatia achieved the best scores according to RWB (ranks 44, 62 and 69 out of 180 countries worldwide). Macedonia and Bulgaria swap places (rank 109 and 111) and have once again received the worst scores in the region.

Seven countries have achieved a better placement compared to the previous year. The exact ranking of the countries depends on numerous factors. Amongst them are the media pluralism and independence, the media environment and self-censorship as well as the legislative framework, which RWB takes into account. Countries can also receive a new rank due to advancement or setback of other countries in comparison. For example, Albania and Bosnia-Herzegovina have improved by a few places, although little progress has been estimated in these countries. The Balkan states are still situated in the middle range of the index compared to all countries worldwide.

Within the EU Bulgaria is scoring the worst. The country’s rank declined from 109 to 111, becoming the last in the region. Reasons for this position are the poor work environment and the insufficient media transparency. As a consequence the trust in media decreases. A survey of the KAS Media Program South East Europe, which was published in November 2017, shows that only 10 percent of the Bulgarians think that the media are independent. 67 percent find them more or less dependent and 24 percent of the respondents were not sure whether the media are independent or not.

In the regional comparison of the media situation Romania achieved the best score in the press freedom index. From some experts’ point of view, the massive civil protests against corruption in the last months could make a contribution to better media conditions.

Serbia is considered as one of the countries – not only in the region but also worldwide – where press freedom deteriorated the most. Within Europe only Malta and the Czech Republic have dropped more ranks. This negative development in Serbia is related to the lack of media independence and transparency.

According to RWB, Croatia and Kosovo have improved the most. Kosovo for example moved four places up and receives its best score since 2010. A positive evaluation in regards to media pluralism contributed to this development.

Acts of violence against journalists were also considered in the press freedom index. In South East Europe RWB registered such kind of abuses in Albania, Kosovo, Moldova and Macedonia.

Rankings of Reporters Without Borders and other organisations such as Freedom House and IREX can be useful indicators for the media freedom in general. They are especially suitable to describe long-term trends in the media situation of individual countries and regions.

Germany is rated on rank 15, Austria on rank 11 and Switzerland on rank 5 on the list of RWB.

Authors

Manuela Zlateva, Darija Fabijanić

published

Bulgaria, April 25, 2018