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NEWS 26 Apr 17

Balkan States Suffer Decline in Media Freedom

Reporters Without Borders' latest World Press Freedom Index says media freedoms are diminishing in several Balkan countries, with Croatia and Serbia registering the worst declines over the past year.

Filip Rudic
BIRN
Belgrade
Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2017. Image: rsf.org

Reporters Without Borders, which campaigns for media freedom and journalists’ rights, said in its 2017 World Press Freedom Index, published on Wednesday, that there have been significant setbacks over the past year in Croatia and Serbia, although Macedonia still has the worst problems in the Balkan region.

Croatia placed 74th in the organisation’s world ranking, down by 11 places, while Serbia was ranked 66th, down by seven.

Reporters Without Borders said that in Croatia, “journalists investigating corruption, organized crime or war crimes are often subjected to harassment campaigns”.

It also said that freedom of the press in Serbia has “declined ever since Aleksandar Vucic, Slobodan Milosevic’s former information minister, became Prime Minister in May 2014”.

Macedonia ranked lowest of the Balkan countries in 111th place, although it rose by seven from last year.

“Media freedom has declined throughout the region, but the erosion of the rule of law has been most visible in Macedonia,” Reporters Without Borders said.

Bulgaria was second lowest at 109th - “lower than any other EU member” - although it rose four places from last year.

Of the Balkan states, Kosovo showed the biggest rise in the rankings, up eight places from last year to 82nd this year.

But Romania was the best-ranked country in the Balkans at 46th place, advancing by three positions from last year.

Bosnia and Herzegovina came in second at 65th place, down by three, while Albania ranked 76th, up by six, and Montenegro retained 106th place.

Reporters Without Borders said that the report reflected a world in which 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,” it said.

Its annual World Press Freedom Index ranks 180 countries using criteria of pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative environment, transparency, infrastructures and abuses.

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