Estonia and Slovakia are the New East countries with the highest levels of press freedom, according to an annual ranking composed by Reporters Without Borders, with both countries gaining places in this year’s top 20.
The highest ranked New East nation, Estonia came in at number 12. Despite this top regional result — gained in part by a total absence of killings of journalists, netizens and media assistants in 2017 — the accompanying report suggests that standards are slipping in Estonia, which has in previous years inhabited the top ten. Why this slight move down the list? Reporters Without Borders highlights legislative amendments adopted in 2010 that made it legal to imprison reporters who refuse to declare their sources for stories about serious crimes, as well as the prevalence of defamation lawsuits against journalists.
Slovakia ranked in 17th place, and can also claim a clean record this year in terms of killings of journalists, netizens and media assistants. On the other hand, the report noted politicians’ growing hostility towards journalists.
At the other end of the spectrum, Turkmenistan came in at number 178 out of the 180 ranked countries, placing ahead of only Eritrea and North Korea. The report describes the country, where the government tightly controls all media and journalists are regularly harassed, as an “ever-growing information ‘black hole’”.
Lower levels of press freedom appear to form part of a global trend, suggest the report’s findings.
“Attacks on the media have become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise. We have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms — especially in democracies. [...] Media freedom has never been so threatened,” reads the report.
Find out how the rest of the New East fared by viewing the full rankings here.