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Freedom of the Press Report, Freedom House 2012

May 3, 2012

Freedom of the Press Report, Freedom House 2012


Another disturbing development in 2011 was a decline in press freedom in several well-established democracies, most notably Chile and Hungary. As a result of status downgrades in a number of previously Free countries over the past few years, the proportion of the global population that enjoys a Free press has fallen to its lowest level in over a decade. The report found that only 14.5 percent of the world’s people—or roughly one in six—live in countries where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures. Deterioration was also seen in a number of Partly Free media environments, such as Ecuador, Macedonia, Malawi, Uganda, and Ukraine.

Central and Eastern Europe/Eurasia: In the CEE/Eurasia region, 7 countries (24 percent) remained classified as Free, 13 (45 percent) were rated Partly Free, and 9 (31 percent) were rated Not Free. However, a majority of the people in this region (56 percent) lived in Not Free media environments, while 29 percent lived in Partly Free countries and only 15 percent had access to Free media—the smallest share since 2003. In 2011, the regional average score underwent a significant decline, with negative movement in all three thematic (legal, political, and economic) categories. While the average for the Eurasia subregion was almost completely static, deterioration in the typically better-performing subregion of Central and Eastern Europe was marked, driven by significant numerical declines in Hungary and Macedonia in particular.

It is notable that three of the eight worst press freedom abusers in the entire survey—Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan—are found in Eurasia. Other countries of special concern include Russia, Azerbaijan, and Kazakhstan. The media environment in Russia is characterized by the use of a pliant judiciary to prosecute independent journalists, impunity for the physical harassment and murder of journalists, and continued state control or influence over almost all traditional media outlets. This was mitigated somewhat by an increase in use of the internet, social media, and satellite television to disseminate and access news and information, especially during the December parliamentary elections and subsequent protests. However, new media users have yet to achieve a real breakthrough in reaching the general public in Russia, and face an uphill battle against a range of political, economic, legal, and extralegal tools at the disposal of the authorities.

Several countries in the region suffered continued and significant declines. Hungary, whose score deteriorated sharply in 2010, was downgraded to Partly Free to reflect the ongoing erosion of press freedom under Prime Minister Viktor Orbán. This was seen in the establishment of the National Agency for Data Protection, which will restrict access to information; evidence of a politically motivated licensing procedure that resulted in a critical radio station losing its frequencies; increased reports of censorship and self-censorship, especially at the public broadcasters; and worsening economic conditions for independent media entrepreneurship.

Ukraine’s score fell from 56 to 59 points as a result of growing government control over the media. Many national media council members are loyal to government official and media tycoon Valery Khoroshkovsky, and media owners increasingly face political pressure regarding content. In Macedonia, the score moved from 48 to 54 points due to the declining legal environment, including politicized decisions by regulatory bodies and the lengthy pretrial detention of a leading opposition-oriented media owner in a politically fraught tax case. As part of that case, the country’s most popular television station and three affiliated newspapers were forced out of business in 2011.

Rank 2012 Country Rating Status
37 (36) ↓ Cyprus 22 (22) = Free
47 (48) ↑ Slovenia 25 (25) = Free
65 (65) = Greece 30 (30) = Free
75 (80) ↑ Montenegro 35 (37) ↑ Partly Free
75 (72) ↓ Serbia 35 (33) ↓ Partly Free
78 (77) ↓ Bulgaria 36 (35) ↓ Partly Free
83 (85) ↑ Croatia 40 (41) ↑ Partly Free
86 (87) ↑ Romania 41 (42) ↑ Partly Free
97 (104) ↑ Kosovo 49 (51) ↑ Partly Free
107 (102) ↓ Albania 51 (50) ↓ Partly Free
115 (96) ↓ fYROM 54 (48) ↓ Partly Free
117 (112) ↓ Turkey 55 (54) ↓ Partly Free

Situation in the Balkans – 2012 compared to 2011. The numbers in parentheses show the figures for 2011. The smaller the nummber of the rating, the better the rank and status (‘Free’: rating 1-30; ‘Partly Free’: 31 – 60. ‘Not Free’: rating 61 – 100).

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