The latest report from Freedom House, the Washington DC-based NGO, says global press freedom dropped significantly in 2014, with Macedonia and Serbia among the worst performers in Europe.
Freedom House’s annual report Freedom of the Press 2015, published on Wednesday, says that press freedom globally has dropped to its lowest point a decade, with Balkan countries among those to have suffered the biggest decline. The governments of Serbia and Macedonia were singled out by Freedom House for infringing on media freedoms by passing restrictive laws, harrassing and indimidating journalists and interfering in editorial content.
Journalists in Balkan countries have experienced increased pressure in the last five years, Freedom House’s findings and independent reports show. In 2013 Macedonian journalist Tomislav Kezarovsky was sentenced to four and a half years in prison for supposedly revealing the name of a protected witness in a murder case. Both local and international media organisations have protested the verdict, calling it politically motivated. In Serbia, prime minister Aleksandar Vučić allegedly attempted to stifle reports about the floods that devastated the country in May 2014 and employed increasingly hostile rhetoric against independent journalists, including those who accused members of his government of plagiarism.
Freedom House employs a ranking system where countries are given a score from 0 (free) to 100 (not free). Points are given or subtracted based on a list of questions like “Are journalists regularly prosecuted or jailed as a result of what they write?“ and “To what degree are print and broadcast journalists subject to editorial direction or pressure from the authorities or from private owners?” Macedonia, on 58 points, is the worst performer in the region, having dropped 10 points since 2010, while Serbia, on 40 points, has also suffered a sharp decline, dropping 7 points since 2010 (4 in the last year). Meanwhile Montenegro, on 39 points, has dropped 3 points since last year.