Estonia moves up to fourth place in 2022 World Press Freedom Index | News

This year, Norway leads the RSF ranking out of 180 countries, followed by Denmark and Sweden. Estonia and Finland ranked fourth and fifth respectively, with scores just below those of Sweden.

Elsewhere in the region, Lithuania ranked ninth, Latvia 22nd and Poland 66th this year.

Among the major Western countries, Germany was ranked 16th, the United Kingdom 24th, France 26th and the United States 42nd.

Commenting on the situation in the United States, RSF noted that despite the new presidential administration taking office last year, media polarization in that country continues to fuel and reinforce national social divisions.

Ukraine was ranked 106th, up from 97th last year.

Belarus, meanwhile, was ranked 153rd and Russia 155th, up from 150th last year. RSF noted that Ukraine’s and Russia’s ranking drops were the result of the propaganda war waged before Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine.

Last in terms of press freedom this year were North Korea, Eritrea and Iran.

Expansion of the “Fox News model” sowing division

In the foreword to the 2022 edition of the World Press Freedom Index, which assessed the state of journalism in 180 countries and territories around the world, RSF “highlights the disastrous effects of the chaos of information and information – the effects of a globalized and unregulated online information space that encourages fake news and propaganda.”

The international NGO also noted that divisions within democratic societies are widening due to the spread of opinion media following the “Fox News model” and the spread of disinformation, which in turn is amplified by social media.

Internationally, RSF has also raised concerns about authoritarian regimes controlling their media and online platforms while simultaneously waging propaganda wars against democracies.

Situation of the media in Estonia

In its overview of the current media landscape in Estonia, RSF noted that, subject to consolidation over the past decade, the Estonian media market now includes two major media houses – Postimees Group and Ekspress Group – public broadcaster ERR, local media as well as several independent online outlets.

He also highlighted Estonia’s Russian-speaking media, which includes ETV+, public and private radio stations and independent websites and caters to the Russian-speaking minority which makes up a quarter of the country’s population.

The RSF report notes that the owners of the two main media groups also have stakes in other business sectors and that the country’s private media operate in a small market with limited access to finance, forcing them to seek new sources of income, including the organization of events. It is also noted that the ERR budget is increasingly limited, currently amounting to 0.14% of GDP, and may be subject to political influence.

Estonia’s political environment, meanwhile, has been described as relatively neutral towards journalism, “which has enabled journalists to hold politicians to account without fear of persecution”.

While freedom of the media in Estonia is guaranteed by the Constitution, legislation protecting against defamation and the disclosure of private data nevertheless restricts it. “While the fear of defamation lawsuits can lead to self-censorship, laws protecting private data have recently become a pretext for Estonian authorities to increasingly restrict media access to public information,” writes RSF.

The NGO’s report did not identify any long-term cultural or societal constraints preventing journalists in Estonia from doing their job. During the COVID-19 pandemic, however, “the media has been accused by a section of the population of complacency with the authorities and the pharmaceutical companies”, leading to verbal attacks both online and offline.

Regarding the safety of journalists in Estonia, RSF notes that while physical attacks against them are extremely rare, “journalists have been exposed to an increasing number of online threats by individuals, with the most serious cases reported to the police and under investigation”.

While media houses have deployed measures to better protect them, “in a context of lack of systematic psychological assistance, cyberbullying can have a self-censoring effect on journalists”.

Minister: Countering Russia’s Information War is Crucial

Commenting on Estonia’s fourth place in this year’s global index, Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets (centre) said Estonia plays a leading role in defending media freedom in the world and that it also considers it crucial to counter the information war waged by Russia against Ukraine, according to a press release.

A world conference on media freedom organized by Estonia was held in Tallinn in February, in close collaboration with RSF. Among the speakers at the conference was Nobel Peace Prize laureate Dmitry Muratov, who spoke about the increasingly limited opportunities for free media to operate in Russia.

“Exactly two weeks later, Russia began its full-scale war against Ukraine, having tried to lay the foundations of propaganda, disinformation and various elements of hybrid warfare for a long time before,” Liimets noted. .

The media is also used to hide and distort the truth in Russia about the horrors of war and crimes against humanity committed in Ukraine, she said, noting that Russian media are not allowed to call it a war.

According to RSF, seven journalists have been killed and 11 injured in Ukraine since February 24.

Click here to read the full report of the World Press Freedom Index 2022 and here to read RSF’s fact file on Estonia.

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