Estonia Holds Steady in Freedom House Press Index (1)
Estonia stayed in 16th place in this year's Freedom House press freedom index, in a year when the American NGO noted a general decline in media freedom around the world.
The annual Freedom of the Press report measures the level of freedom and editorial independence enjoyed around the 197 countries and terrorities around the globe.
"We are in good company with some other countries," said Mart Raudsaar, head of the Estonian Newspaper Association (EALL). "What you need to worry about is when you see a trend, after you drop four or five positions. Then you need to be concerned, and have a debate about the reasons."
Since 2001, Estonia has been no lower than 18th, a position attained in the 2010 and 2011 reports, with 15th being the highest position.
Raudsaar said there was one episode earlier this year that caused concern for the media, in which the Ministry of Justice pushed legislation that would allow only the first letter of the last name of citizens convicted in a court of law to be published. That legislation was dropped after newspapers in the EALL simultaneously published opinion pieces attacking it. The issue might have an impact on Estonia's score next year, he said, as its analysis ends in December for each report.
Freedom House has been releasing the report since 1980. The findings are widely used by governments, international organizations, academics, activists and the news media. Raudsaar noted the index's importance, and said the results always need to be monitored.
"I you do see a drop, you need to have a debate on what the reasons are," he said.
Finland came in 11th in the index, Latvia improved one position to 27th, while Lithuania remained steady at 24th. Russia remained in 81st in the index's "not free" category.
Overall, it was a bad year for press freedom across the globe, as the report said that its index was at the lowest level of press freedom in a decade. The decline was driven in part by major regressions in several Middle Eastern states, including Egypt, Libya and Jordan, and drops in Turkey and Ukraine and the United States. Only 14 percent of the globe's population lives in areas which are ranked in the report's "free" category.
"We see declines in media freedom on a global level, driven by governments' efforts to control the message and punish the messenger," said Karin Karlekar, report project director. "In every region of the world last year, we found both governments and private actors attacking reporters, blocking their physical access to newsworthy events, censoring content, and ordering politically motivated firings of journalists."
The full report can be accessed here.