Source: Reporters without Borders

The criteria evaluated are

  1. Pluralism (Measures the degree to which opinions are represented in the media)
  2. Media independence (Measures the degree to which the media are able to function independently of sources of political, governmental, business and religious power and influence)
  3. Environment and self-censorship: (Analyses the environment in which news and information providers operate)
  4. Legislative framework (Measures the impact of the legislative framework governing news and information activities)
  5. Transparency (Measures the transparency of the institutions and procedures that affect the production of news and information)
  6. Infrastructure (Measures the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information)
  7. Abuses (Measures abuses and acts of violence against journalists and media)


  1. Finland (2 out of 180 countries)
  2. Sweden (3 out of 180 countries)
  3. Netherlands (4 out of 180 countries)
  4. Denmark (5 out of 180 countries)
  5. Belgium (9 out of 180 countries)
  6. Estonia (11 out of 180 countries)
  7. Portugal (12 out of 180 countries)
  8. Germany (13 out of 180 countries)
  9. Ireland (15 out of 180 countries)
  10. Austria (16 out of 180 countries)
  11. Luxembourg (17 out of 180 countries)
  12. Latvia (24 out of 180 countries)
  13. Cyprus (28 out of 180 countries)
  14. Spain (29 out of 180 countries)
  15. Lithuania (30 out of 180 countries)
  16. France (32 out of 180 countries)
  17. United Kingdom (33 out of 180 countries)
  18. Slovenia (34 out of 180 countries)
  19. Slovakia (35 out of 180 countries)
  20. Czech Republic (40 out of 180 countries)
  21. Italy (43 out of 180 countries)
  22. Romania (47 out of 180 countries)
  23. Poland (59 out of 180 countries)
  24. Croatia (64 out of 180 countries)
  25. Greece (65 out of 180 countries)
  26. Malta (77 out of 180 countries)
  27. Hungary (87 out of 180 countries)
  28. Bulgaria (111 out of 180 countries)


The European Union registered the second biggest deterioration in its regional score measuring the level of constraints and violations. It is still the region where press freedom is respected most and which is, in principle, the safest, but journalists are nonetheless exposed to serious threats: to murder in Malta, Slovakia and Bulgaria ; to an unprecedented level of violence during the Yellow Vest protests in France . Many TV crews did not dare cover the Yellow Vest protests without being accompanied by bodyguards, and others concealed their channel’s logo. Journalists are also being openly stigmatized. In Hungary , officials in Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s party Fidesz continue to refuse to speak to journalists who are not from media that are friendly to Fidesz. In Poland, the state-owned media have been turned into propaganda tools and are increasingly used to harass journalists.

The decline in press freedom in Europe, as seen in RSF’s Press Freedom Index over the past few years, has gone hand in hand with an erosion of the region’s institutions by increasingly authoritarian governments. What with murders, attempted murders, and physical and verbal attacks, Europe’s journalists are subjected to many forms of pressure and intimidation and increasingly to judicial harassment as well. Europe continues to be the continent that best guarantees press freedom, but the work of its investigative reporters is being obstructed more and more.

The murders of three journalists in Malta, Slovakia and Bulgaria in the space of a few months has made the world realize that Europe is no longer a sanctuary for journalists. This is especially true for those who take an interest in corruption, tax evasion and misuse of European Union funds, often involving the mafia, who are among investigative journalists’ most dangerous predators.

In Italy, around 20 journalists, are currently protected by police bodyguards day and night.In a steadily worsening security climate, the need for police protection for journalists is even felt in the countries at the top of the Index. In the Netherlands, two journalists who have specialized in covering criminal gangs are getting full-time police protection, while Sweden has seen a surge in cyber-harassment of journalists who cover organized crime or religious issues.

Bulgaria is constantly criticised for its endemic corruption and the ineffectiveness of its judicial system. Its journalists are targeted by both organized crime and the authorities who heap abuse on them instead of defending them. In September 2018, the police arrested two journalists from independent media outlets who were investigating the misuse of EU funds.

From one end of Europe to the other, journalists are harassed as soon as they shed light on sensitive subjects. In Romania, journalists who had been looking into the misuse of EU development funding for several months, were harassed by the authorities, who invoked the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) as grounds for making them reveal their sources.

In Malta, a handful of journalists are trying to continue the work of anti-corruption blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia. They are shedding light on the island state’s rampant corruption and money-laundering, despite an oppressive and worrying climate still marked by Caruana Galizia’s murder in October 2017. As well as having to live in fear, they are subjected to intense judicial harassment.

Poland, is no exception. After Tomasz Piatek’s prosecution before a military court for revealing the defence minister’s links with Russian organised crime, the newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza’s journalists are now threatened with the possibility of jail sentences for linking ruling party leader Jaroslaw Kaczyński with a questionable construction project.

Another disturbing phenomenon took hold in Europe in 2018 – the adoption of an anti-media rhetoric in democracies. Journalists are being vilified, insulted and threatened by persons at the highest level of the political establishment. One of the countries where this trend is growing is France , where Jean-Luc Mélenchon, the leader of La France Insoumise (France Unbowed), said it was “healthy and just” to hate journalists.

In Hungary, officials in Prime Minister Viktor Orbán’s party Fidesz continue to refuse to talk to journalists who are not from “friends of Fidesz” media. A few months ago, Orbán refused to answer questions from the critical TV news channel HírTV, dismissing it as nothing more than a source of “fake news.” Some journalists no longer even have the right to address members of the government or ask questions during press conferences.

Criticism of the media is becoming a political weapon that weakens journalism when systematic. To this end, political leaders have had no scruples about using state-owned media that have been turned into propaganda outlets or at least enlisted in their cause. Use of state-owned media to harass journalists is not new, but the practice has been stepped up. In Poland, where the conservative PiS government has turned the public broadcast media into its mouthpiece, questions are being raised about the state-owned TVP channel’s role in Gdansk mayor Pawel Adamowicz’s murder. TVP named him 1,800 times in the course of the year, always with the aim of denigrating him. The head of the channel has promised to sue all journalists who try to establish a link between these hate messages and Adamowicz’s murder.

The verbal attacks and threats against media throughout Europe is encouraging acts of violence against reporters in the field. These verbal attacks constitute hatred of journalism and pluralism, and are form of anti-democratic blackmail. Hatred of the media, a leading characteristic of the angry “Gilets Jaunes” (Yellow Vest) protests in France, is the most worrying example and has resulted in unprecedented acts of violence and intimidation. A female reporter for La Dépêche du Midi was insulted and threatened with rape by a pack of angry protesters in Toulouse in January 2019. In all, several dozen serious incidents have been reported since the start of the protests. There have also been dozens of cases of police violence and excessive firing of flash-ball rounds, usually against photojournalists.

Aside from threats and intimidation of this kind, more and more journalists are being harassed and worn down financially. In an effective dissuasive tool whose use is growing throughout Europe, journalists are being subjected to SLAPPs (Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation), in which the aim is to use the threat of sizeable legal defence costs to silence the targets, rather than obtain actual damages. In France, many journalists have been sued by big corporations such as Bolloré and Vinci. In response to print and broadcast media reports, Bolloré has brought many defamation suits in France and abroad that circumvent France’s 1881 press freedom law.

The technique of threatening to exhaust journalists’ financial resources is also widely used in Malta. Caruana Galizia was subjected to all-out judicial harassment until her murder and now the rich and powerful have turned their sights on The Shift News, an investigative website. Croatia is beating all records in this regard. The Association of Croatian Journalists has registered more than 1,000 lawsuits against journalists and media outlets, most of them by politicians and public figures. Ironically, at least 30 of them were brought by the state-owned TV broadcaster HRT.


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