Media watchdog issues press freedom ranking

In its second annual world press freedom report, the international press protection organisation Reporters Without Borders gave generally high marks to EU countries with the exception of Italy and Spain.

Reporters Without Borders published its 2003 world press freedom survey of 166 countries on 20 October. The survey is based on questionnaires filled in by journalists, human rights activists, researchers and legal experts in which they evaluate press freedoms in the countries. For the second year running, Italy was ranked 53rd, mainly due to the fact that the conflict of interest between Silvio Berlusconi's roles as Head of Government and owner of a media empire is still unresolved. Furthermore, the report said that a draft law to reform radio and TV broadcasting, tailored to Berlusconi's interests, is likely to increase the threat to news diversity in Italy.

Spain was ranked 42nd due to difficulties for journalists in the Basque country. France was in 26th position because of what the report described was its archaic defamation legislation, the increasingly frequent challenges to the principle of confidentiality of sources and the repeated abusive detention of journalists by police. The top five countries were Finland, Iceland, the Netherlands, Norway and Denmark.

Of the new Member States, Latvia was listed 11th, followed by the Czech Republic, Estonia and Slovakia. Other rankings: Lithuania 18th, Slovenia 20th, Hungary 21st, Poland 33rd, Bulgaria 35th, Romania 60th and Cyprus 83rd.


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