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news 30 Jan 13

Serbia Tops Press Freedom List in Balkans

A new report on media freedom by Reporters Without Borders has ranked Serbia best in the Balkans - though the outlook for the region generally remains cloudy.

Bojana Barlovac
BIRN
Belgrade

Serbia has been ranked in top place in terms of press freedom in the Balkans, standing at 63rd place out of 179 countries covered in the survey. Last year, Serbia came in at 80.

"Legislative reforms have brought an improvement, but it should not be forgotten that there are still many obstacles to overcome, and old habits that are harmful to independent journalism still linger," the report by the Paris-based watchdog Reporters Without Borders said on Wednesday.

The annual report reflects the degree of freedom that journalists, news organizations and citizens enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for these freedoms.

It is based partly on a questionnaire sent to their partner organizations (18 freedom of expression NGOs in all five continents), to their network of 150 correspondents, and to journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists.

The World Press Freedom Index said that the Balkans as a whole remained rooted in the repressive practices of the past.

Croatia came in next after Serbia, in 64th place, climbing up from 68th position in last year's report.

All other countries in the region, bar Kosovo, dropped down, compared to their ranking in 2011.  Bosnia and Herzegovina came in at 68th place, down from 58, Albania fell from 96 to 102, Bulgaria from 80 to 87, Montenegro from 107 to 113. Kosovo moved up marginally, from 86th to 85th place.

Macedonia dropped significantly from 94th place to 116th, ranked at the bottom of the list of Balkan countries.

"Albania, Montenegro, and especially Macedonia bring up the rear of the index for the Balkans with the same sorry record: judicial harassment based on often inappropriate legislation, the lack of access to public data, physical and psychological violence against those who work in news and information, official and private advertising markets used as a tool, and the grey economy’s hold over vital parts of the media," the report said.

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