Estonia Ranks 11th in Latest Press Freedom Index, Same as Last Year (1)

(Postimees/Scanpix)
2/12/2014 2:30 PM
Category: Society

It was the second year in a row that Estonia finished 11th, following a eight-place drop from third in 2012 in the annual report, produced by the international watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

As in the 2013 report, Finland, Netherlands and Norway led the top 10 of the index, followed by Luxembourg, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Iceland, New Zealand and Sweden.

Lithuania was 32nd and Latvia was 37th. 

No specific reasons were given on Estonia's drop last year, but at the time, director of the Estonian Newspaper Association Mart Raudsaar told Postimees that there were three likely main reasons for the fall: new proposed "hate speech" legilsation; criticism by politicians on the use of language by journalists, especially at the state-funded but independent Estonian Public Broadcasting; and extensive criticism of the media's self-regulatory institutions.

Anti-whistleblower actions take a toll overseas

The United States and the United Kingdom both suffered drops in the index, and Reporters cited the country's attacks on goverment whistleblowers and leaks the primary cause. The U.S. fell 13 places to 46th, citing the Obama's administration's focus on investigating leaks, the trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning, who released US military and diplomatic materials to the website Wikileaks, and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden, who released documents on the government's worldwide surveillance techniques.

The U.K ranked 33rd this year, a three-spot drop. Reporters Without Borders cited the "disgraceful pressure" it put on the Guardian newspaper during the publishing of its stories on Snowden's NSA materials, and the detention of David Miranda, the partner and assistant of journalist Glen Greenwald, who spearheaded the Snowden coverage.

The situation in Bangui...

The Central African Republic, where Estonian troops will be deployed soon, dropped 43 places to 109th, the largest drop in this year's index, after repeated attacks and threats against journalists stemming from the March 2013 overthrow of President François Bozizé by the Seleka rebel coalition when the rebels took the capital, Bangui.

As physical attacks and threats to media and journalists increased during 2013, many newspapers radicalized their discourse and failed to maintain journalistic objectivity, the ROB report said.

Christophe Gazam Betty, the communication minister appointed after the Seleka takeover, banned the media from talking about Seleka’s actions, notifying them that every report needed authorization by his office and reminding the state media that they were required to support government policy under an existing decree.

Radio Ndeke Luka, a radio station supported by Fondation Hirondelle, a Swiss NGO, and by international donors, is the only news outlet to have remained relatively neutral during this period, limiting itself to reporting atrocities without comment.

...and next door

Russia ranked 148th out of 180 countries. Reporters Without Borders cited the Kremlin's "war on civil society". Ever since Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in May 2012, more and more draconian laws have been adopted, the report said, with activists, news media and bloggers having all been targeted.Defamation has been criminalized again, websites are being blacklisted and the range of activities that can be construed as “high treason” is now much broader. “Traditional values” are used to justify new restrictions on freedom of information, including the criminalization of “homosexual propaganda” and “insulting the feelings of believers.”

Journalists are being detained in connection with their work, the report said. In Sochi, freelance reporter Nikolai Yarst spent six months under house arrest and continues to face "a trumped-up charge" of drug possession. In Rostov-on-Don, the blogger Sergei Reznik and the journalist Alexander Tolmachev are being held on "questionable charges". The Russian photographer Denis Sinyakov and the British videographer Kieron Bryan spent two months in provisional detention on charges of piracy and hooliganism for covering Greenpeace protests in the Arctic. At least 33 journalists have been murdered in connection with their work in Russia since 2000, Reporters Without Borders stated.


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