Data World Press Freedom Index 2021

EU still ‘powerless’ against press freedom violations

Although it remains by far the most favourable place for the safety and freedom of journalists, Europe has seen the press freedom situation deteriorate in several central European countries. Meanwhile, the mechanisms put in place to protect fundamental freedoms are not yet having any effect, says Reporters Without Borders on the occasion of the publication of the 2021 edition of its ranking.

Published on 20 April 2021 at 15:55

In a year marked by the Covid-19 pandemic and the need for citizens to be better informed about its issues, risks and evolution, "violations of the right to inform and be informed were evident in several European countries." reads the RSF press release, according to which several governments, such as Serbia, Kosovo and Hungary, "have tried to limit the impact of information on sensitive subjects including the pandemic”. 

Unsurprisingly, the two countries that have stood out for their hostile behaviour towards the press and journalists in Europe over the past year are Belarus and Hungary. 

"With censorship, mass arrests, harassment, violence, journalists working for independent media were specifically targeted by the police following the fraudulent presidential election on 9 August 2020" writes RSF about Belarus, where "arrested while covering protests or to prevent them from covering protests, journalists were initially given short “administrative” jail sentences on spurious grounds. The authorities later began to bring criminal charges against them that were punishable by several years in prison, and to conduct sham trials chaired by politically pliable judges."

In Hungary, prime minister Viktor Orbán "has succeeded in transforming his country into a veritable European counter-model in terms of press freedom," writes RSF. For the Paris-based NGO, Viktor Orbán's regime is constantly "censoring independent media such as the Index website, “from which almost all the journalists resigned after it was taken over by allies of the prime minister, and Klubrádio, a radio station that was stripped off its broadcast frequency on a minor administrative pretext." 

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In the face of these abuses, the European Union "seems powerless", regrets RSF: "The sanctions procedure against Hungary for violating the rule of law has not progressed and a newly-created mechanism making access to EU funding conditional on respect for the rule of law takes no account of press freedom."

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