The media in Europe: between two extremes

The European Union is at two extremes when it comes to media freedom, as there are significant differences between countries, and conditions have changed significantly in some countries.

This is stated in the assessment of the EU in the annual report of the organization “Reporters Without Borders”, released today.

An example is that Estonia (4th place) and Lithuania (9th place) – two former communist countries – are now in the top ten, while the Netherlands (28th place) is no longer among them. And Greece (108th) replaced Bulgaria (91st) in last place in Europe.

This ranking is due to the new assessment methodology introduced this time, and the authors explicitly say not to compare this year’s ranking with previous ones. But the new approach also outlines some processes.

“These changes and differences reflect three main trends. First, the return murders of journalists in the European Union: George Karaivas in Greece and Peter R. De Vries in the Netherlands were shot dead in a mafia-style style in the center of two European cities. Caruana Galicia in Malta (78th place) and Jan Kuciak in Slovakia (27th place), committed before 2020, have not yet been convicted, but the two countries have made some progress in the fight for justice and reforms in the field of justice. freedom of the press “, the organization writes.

In addition, journalists who were misdiagnosed as pro-government have faced fierce hostility from protesters against measures to tackle the coronavirus. In Germany (16th place), France (26th place), Italy (58th place), and the Netherlands, journalists were physically attacked, while in other countries they were subjected to insults and threats of all kinds.

Finally, some EU and neighboring governments have stepped up legal measures against journalists, especially in Slovenia (54th place), Poland (66th), Hungary (85th), Albania (103th), and Greece. Authorities in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria have weakened their control over the press since the change of government in 2021, Reporters Without Borders reports.

The new World Press Freedom Index reveals a twofold increase in polarization, exacerbated by information chaos – ie. polarization of the media, fueling divisions within countries, as well as polarization between countries at the international level. The 2022 edition highlights the catastrophic consequences of information chaos – the effects of a globalized and unregulated online information space that encourages fake news and propaganda, the organization said in a statement.

RSF Secretary-General Christoph Delor said: “Margarita Simonyan, editor-in-chief of RT (formerly Russia Today), revealed what she thinks on Russia One TV when she said: ‘No great nation can exist without control over information.’ The creation of media weapons in authoritarian countries removes the right to information of their citizens, but it is also linked to growing international tensions, which can lead to the worst kind of war.

Within democracies, divisions are growing as a result of the proliferation of media following the Fox News model and the proliferation of disinformation chains that are exacerbated by the way social media operates. At the international level, democracies are weakened by the asymmetry between open societies and despotic regimes that control their media and online platforms while waging propaganda wars against democracies. The polarization of these two levels feeds increased voltage.

The invasion of Ukraine (106th) by Russia (155th) at the end of February reflects this process, as the physical conflict was preceded by a propaganda war. China (175th place), one of the most repressive autocratic regimes in the world, uses its legislative arsenal to limit its population and cut it off from the rest of the world, especially Hong Kong’s population (148th), which has declined in Index.

Media polarization fuels and reinforces internal social divisions in democracies such as the United States (42nd), despite the election of President Joe Biden, who took office in January 2021. Increasing social and political tensions are fueled by social media and media with new opinions, especially in France (26th place). Suppression of independent media contributes to the sharp polarization in “illiberal democracies” such as Poland (66th place), where the authorities are consolidating their control over public service broadcasting and their strategy to “recolonize” private media.

The situation is classified as “very bad” in a record number of 28 countries in this year’s Index, while 12 countries, including Belarus (153rd) and Russia (155th), are in the red zone of the Index, which shows “very bad” (freedom of the press situations) on the map. The world’s 10 worst countries for press freedom include Myanmar (176th), where the February 2021 coup left press freedom free by 10 years, and China, Turkmenistan (177th). Iran (178th), Eritrea (179th), and North Korea (180th).

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