Greece replaces Bulgaria as EU press freedom black sheep – EURACTIV.com
After many years of Bulgaria being the lowest ranked EU country in terms of press freedom, the World Press Freedom Index for 2022 painted a different picture on Tuesday 3 May: Bulgaria s improved as the deteriorating media situation in Greece sent that country down.
Bulgaria has climbed 21 ranks in the latest edition of Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) annual report and is no longer the black sheep of the EU.
In 2021, Bulgaria ranked 112e out of 180 countries surveyed, its worst ranking on record. This year, Bulgaria has grown to 91st square.
As RSF explained, the development is the result of a change of government, after 12 years of almost uninterrupted rule by conservative Prime Minister Boyko Borissov, during which media freedom was in decline and some media were used to exert political influence.
Bulgaria has had a series of snap elections in 2021 and has a new government, which has declared tackling corruption its top priority.
However, many problems remain in the media sector.
“Corruption, the lack of independence and the weak efficiency of the judicial system often render the state powerless in the face of attacks on freedom of the press. Independent media and investigative journalists are regularly victims of abuse of process, or SLAPP,” RSF’s report on Bulgaria says, referring to “strategic public participation lawsuits” designed to intimidate journalists and media .
Conversely, Greece fell from 70th in 2021 to 108th, the worst ranking for an EU member. The ranking is even lower than that of any candidate country in the Western Balkans, where the lowest ranking is Albania (103rd).
According to RSF, press freedom in Greece suffered serious setbacks in 2021 and 2022, with journalists regularly prevented from covering issues ranging from migration to COVID-19.
Additionally, the murder of veteran journalist Giorgos Karaivaz in April 2021 remains unsolved despite the government’s promise of a swift investigation. Karaivaz was shot outside his home in Athens in broad daylight.
Public trust in the media in Greece remains among the lowest in Europe as the sector is very fragmented and mostly owned by a few people who are also active in other highly regulated sectors.
Public media still lack independence and recent amendments to the penal code “allow the disproportionate restriction of press freedom on fragile legal grounds”.
This “goes against Greece’s international commitments and European legal standards, represents a serious threat to the right of journalists to publish information of public interest and increases the risk of self-censorship”, says the RSF report. .
Women journalists routinely have to deal with sexism, while far left and right activists are prone to attack media outlets they see as “ideological enemies”.
The police have also been heavily criticized for regularly using “violence and arbitrary bans to hamper journalistic coverage of protests and the refugee crisis”. The report also referred to the smear campaign against a Dutch journalist who challenged Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis over the pushbacks of migrants.
[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]