On January 30, “Reporters without Borders“(RSF) international organization released its eleventh annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index. The study was conducted in 179 countries and was based on events between December 1, 2011 and November 30, 2012. The index was compiled by surveying 18 partner organizations and 150 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 compiled by RSF and considering 6 media criteria: pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency of the institutions and procedures that affect the production of news and information, and infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.
After the “Arab springs” and other protest movements that prompted many rises and falls in the previous index, the 2012 media freedom index marks a return to a more usual configuration. The RSF report stresses that the ranking of most countries is no longer attributable to dramatic political developments, rather than is a reflection of the attitudes and intentions of governments towards media freedom.
For the third year running, Finland, followed by the Netherlands and Norway, is heading the Index. At the other end of the Index, the same three countries as ever – Turkmenistan (177th place), North Korea (178) and Eritrea (179) – occupy the last three places.
Of the former USSR countries the most benign is the situation in the Baltic States – Estonia (11), Lithuania (33) and Latvia (39).
As compared with 2011, there was a slight change in Moldova (55th place in 2012 versus 53rd in 2011), Armenia (74 versus 77), Georgia (100 versus 104) and Kyrgyzstan (106 versus 108). The RSF report points out that despite their wide dispersal in the index, these countries have a number of things in common. "These countries enjoy broad media pluralism and a low level of state censorship, but they still face important challenges concerning media independence and the working environment of journalists. The latter are often in the firing line in highly polarized societies and treated as easy prey by a variety of pressure groups", the RSF believes.
In the other post-Soviet countries, there is a decrease in the rankings of Tajikistan (123 versus 122), Ukraine (126 versus 116), Russia (148 versus 142), Kazakhstan (160 versus 154) and Uzbekistan (164 versus 157). Azerbaijan (156 versus 162) and Belarus (157 versus 168) saw limited improvement. According to the RSF, both countries fell in 2011 after using violence to suppress opposition demonstrations and in 2012 they just moved back towards their appalling former positions.