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Balkan Press Liberty Declining, Freedom House Says

Freedom House report says media freedom in the Balkan region is in decline – with the fast decline noted in Serbia and Macedonia.

A new report by the US-based watchdog Freedom House, published on Wednesday, raises fresh concerns about the state of the media in the Balkans.

The report says media freedom is declining in the Balkans generally, where the press is described as only as “Partly Free”, while media in Macedonia are described as “Not Free”.

Serbia and Macedonia figure on a list of 19 countries where media freedoms declined fastest in the course of a single year, losing five and four points respectively.

Freedom House gave each of the 199 countries and territories a total press freedom score ranging from 0 (best) to 100 (worst) on the basis of 23 questions divided into three sub-categories: the legal, political and economic environment.

According to ranking, Romania did best in the region with a score of 38 points, Bulgaria came next with 40 and Montenegro came third with 41.

Croatia scored 42 points, Serbia 45, Greece 48, Kosovo 49, Bosnia and Herzegovina 50, Albania 52 and Macedonia 62 points.

The decline in press freedom in Serbia was blamed on the government’s “hostile rhetoric toward investigative journalists, reported censorship of journalists and media outlets, and a decrease in the availability of critical, independent reporting,” the report reads.

“Macedonia [press freedom] declined due to revelations indicating large-scale and illegal government wiretapping of journalists, corrupt ties between officials and media owners, and an increase in threats and attacks on media workers,” the report noted.

The report also noted a rise in violence towards journalists in the region, with physical assaults and death threats reported in Serbia, Bosnia and Macedonia and “numerous violations committed against reporters who were investigating government corruption.

“The region overall is giving us quite a lot of cause for worry, as its old problems seem to be persisting but also some of the better performers seem to be headed in bad directions,” Freedom House wrote on the Balkan region.

Declining media freedoms in Balkan countries are seen a part of global trend. The previous year saw the biggest drop in scores 12 years, “as political, criminal, and terrorist forces sought to co-opt or silence the media in their broader struggle for power”.

According to the report, 41 per cent of the world’s population has a “partly free” media, while 46 per cent has a “not free” media environment.

Source: Balkan Insight


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