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Level of Press Freedom Declines across the EU

December 28, 2010

As 2010 comes to a close, international organizations have been releasing their annual reports about the state of the world.  Recently, Reporters Sans Frontières (Reporters Without Borders) released its Press Freedom Index for 2010, and while Western European countries still tend to rank towards the top, the report also showed that press freedom was declining in the EU.  According to Reporters Sans Frontières, six Western European (including three members of the EU) countries shared first place in the world, and over EU members have created environments that support press freedom.  However, as the below figure shows, Reporters Sans Frontières gave many EU member states worse grades than in 2009, with some of the biggest changes being Latvia, Cyprus, and Greece (Reporters Sans Frontières uses a reserve scale, so having a score of zero is better than a score of one).

Of course, these scores are somewhat arbitrary, so below is the rank of the EU member states compared to the rest of the world.  After all, the U.S. received a worse score in 2010, but they were still ranked as the 20th most free country in the world.  However, the results still show that press freedom declined in the EU over the past year, and Greece still finds itself at the bottom of the EU table.  In addition, these rankings do not reflect all of the events that occurred in the past few months.  For instance, many commentators have become increasingly alarmed about the Hungarian government’s recent actions to  pass a law reducing press freedom.

As with many other issues, as the EU moves farther east, the new members tend to do more poorly in these sorts of rankings than older member states.  Of course, this trend is not uniform, as the two above graphs show.  However, unfortunately, press freedom tends to be less well protected in candidate countries than in EU member states.  Iceland is again an outlier, as it received a score of zero in 2010, placing it tied for second place in the world.  However, the second most free candidate country is Croatia, and with a ranking of 62 would place it between Romania and Bulgaria in this year’s index.  On the bright side, Croatia did pick up 16 places in the last year.  Unfortunately, the other three candidate countries all slide down the table this year, with Macedonia falling to 68, Montenegro to 104, and Turkey to 138.  As a result, these three countries will have a long way to go meeting EU standards in this area.

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