Cyprus is the Southeast European country ranked highest in Reporters Without Borders' latest Press Freedom Index published on Wednesday; Turkey was the region's worst performer.
By Svetla Dimitrova for Southeast European Times in Sofia -- 26/01/12
Journalists demonstrate in central Ankara calling for press freedom on March 19th, 2011. RWB’s recent report on Press Freedom Index named Turkey as the region’s worst performer. [Reuters]
Reporters Without Borders (RWB) released on its latest assessment of press freedom in the world on Wednesday (January 25th), naming "crackdown" as the word of the year in 2011.
"Never has freedom of information been so closely associated with democracy," the Paris-based media watchdog noted in a statement. "Never have journalists, through their reporting, vexed the enemies of freedom so much. Never have acts of censorship and physical attacks on journalists seemed so numerous."
It also stressed that in countries where civil liberties are repressed or are mere words, the outcome will always be suppression of media freedom.
"Dictatorships fear and ban information, especially when it may undermine them," RWB said.
In October 2002, when it released its first global assessment of media freedom, five out of the seven Southeast European (SEE) nations included in the survey were listed among the world's top 45 performers.
Nine years later, none of those seven -- Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH), Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Romania, Turkey and the then-Yugoslavia -- has made it into that group in RWB's 2011-2012 World Press Freedom Index.
Cyprus is 16th in this year's survey of 179 countries and territories in the world, up from 45th in the previous one published in October 2010. Cyprus is well ahead of its Turkish-run northern part, which has dropped 41 places to 102nd.
The region's second highest ranked country, Romania, has moved up five positions since last year to return to 47th, which it held in 2008.
The other SEE countries that have also improved their rankings over the past 15 months are BiH (58th), Kosovo (86th) and especially Moldova, which has jumped 22 slots to 53rd this year. In 2009, the former Soviet republic was ranked 114th among 175 countries in the world.
Of the other eight SEE countries included in the new Index, Greece has retained its 70th position, while the others have been, like Cyprus's Turkish-controlled northern part, placed lower than in late 2010. The highest-ranked among them is Croatia, at 68th, followed by Bulgaria and Serbia, which share the 80th position with Chile and Paraguay. Macedonia is now 94th in the world, ahead of Albania (96th), Montenegro (107th) and Turkey (148th).
Bulgaria and Greece have kept their status as the EU's bad performers, RWB said in a statement Wednesday on its findings about press freedom in Europe.
"Targeted attacks and death threats against journalists marked the past year in Bulgaria, where concerns about print media pluralism grew," the watchdog noted. "In Greece, the economic crisis highlighted the fragility of its media, while photographers and cameramen covering demonstrations were exposed to conditions resembling war zones."
Its remarks on Turkey, which has fallen ten places since last year and a total of 46 since the 2008 Index, were even more critical.
"At a time when it is portraying itself as a regional model, Turkey took a big step backwards and lost ten places," RWB noted. "Far from carrying out promised reforms, the judicial system launched a wave of arrests of journalists that was without precedent since the military dictatorship."
The best global performers this year are Finland, Norway and Estonia, while Turkmenistan, followed by North Korea and Eritrea came in last.