Press freedom has improved in many parts of Southeast Europe (SEE) over the last 12 months, according to a new survey released on Tuesday (October 24th). However, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) is the only country in the region ranking among the top 20 nations in the world on this issue.
These were among the findings in the fifth annual Worldwide Press Freedom Index, compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
Continuing its gradual rise, BiH now shares 19th place with Denmark, New Zealand and Trinidad and Tobago. The Balkan nation has moved 14 places up from its 33rd position in the group’s 2005 index, leaving EU members Greece (32nd) and Italy (40th) behind.
“Each year new countries in less-developed parts of the world move up the Index to positions above some European countries or the United States,” Reporters Without Borders said. “This is good news and shows once again that, even though very poor, countries can be very observant of freedom of expression.”
The 2006 index measures the state of press freedom in 168 world nations during a 12-month period ending on September 1st, 2006 and reflects the extent of freedom enjoyed by journalists and news organisations in each of the surveyed countries. Each country is given a ranking and a score, ranging from 0.50 to 109.0.
To compile the index, Reporters Without Borders asked 14 freedom of expression organisations, its network of 130 correspondents, as well as journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists, to answer 50 questions about press freedom in their countries. The questionnaire covered all kinds of violations affecting the work of journalists, including murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats, and of news media, such as censorship, searches and harassment.
With scores of 0.50 each, Finland, Ireland, Iceland and the Netherlands share 1st place in the index, while Eritrea (97.50), Turkmenistan (98.50) and North Korea (109.00) are at the bottom.
Compared to last year, four other SEE countries, as well as Kosovo, have — like BiH — improved their rankings.
Bulgaria has moved up 13 positions to rank 35th in the 2006 index, along with Australia, France and Mali. Romania, which was 70th in last year’s index, is now 58th, together with Fiji, Hong Kong and Poland. Bulgaria and Romania will join the EU on January 1st, 2007.
The former Serbia-Montenegro rose 20 places since last year. It now shares 45th position with Cape Verde, Mozambique and Macedonia, which fell two places as compared to last year.
Croatia, whose score of 12.83 placed it 56th in the 2005 index, now shares 53rd place with Botswana, Tonga and the United States. However, its score has dropped slightly, to 13.00.
Kosovo has leapfrogged from the 100th place last year to the 70th in the 2006 index, sharing it with Burkina Faso and Lesotho.
Placed 98th, Turkey has retained both its ranking and score of 25.00.
Cyprus, its Turkish Cypriot community, Greece and Albania all rank lower than they did last year. Cyprus has dropped five places to stand 30th this year, while Greece now shares the 32nd position with Mauritius, 14 places down from last year.
Press freedom in Cyprus’s Turkish-run north also appears to have deteriorated over the past 12 months. It now ranks 62nd, nine places down. Albania, which was ranked 62nd in the 2005 index, is now 80th, together with Qatar.