Dutch press freedom improves amidst worldwide decline

The Netherlands ranks second in the world when it comes to the freedom of the press, according to a recent publication by Reporters Without Borders. That means that the country moved up two spots compared to the year before, now only trailing Finland.

The 2016 World Press Freedom Index states that "it is an ancestral tradition with the Dutch. Freedom of the media and opinion is enshrined and media independence is protected.

Their law bans insults, discrimination and inciting hatred, but satire is permitted and cannot be suppressed. A ban on filming in parliament without the parliamentarians' explicit agreement is one of the very few exceptions to the rule."

Worldwide decrease in press freedom

It is a positive note in an otherwise alarming report about press freedom in the world. The 2016 index "shows that there has been a deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels."

The reasons for this includes the increasingly authoritarian tendencies of governments in countries such as Turkey and Egypt, and tighter government control of state-owned media, even in some European countries such as Poland.

All of the indicators that are used to create the annual index show a decline from 2013 to 2016. This is especially the case for media infrastructure.

Government crackdowns

Some governments have suspended access to the Internet or even destroyed the premises, broadcast equipment or printing presses of media outlets they dislike, according to the report. The "infrastructure" indicator fell 16 percent between 2013 and 2016.

Stricter laws

An increasing number of laws have been adopted that serve to reign in journalists and media outlets. Charges such as insulting the president, blasphemy or supporting terrorism are increasingly used to prosecute media.

One psychological consequence of this development is self-censorship. The "media environment and self-censorship" indicator fell by more than 10 percent between 2013 and 2016.

Media conglomerates in Europe

The media ownership by conglomerates with a wide range of business interests has long posed a threat to journalistic independence, but the threat is growing and is endangering the European model, according to Reporters Without Borders.

This is the case in France (45th), where most of the private-sector national media are now owned by a handful of businessmen with interests in areas of the economy unrelated to the media, the report states.

In the United Kingdom (38th, down 4), the police used the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (RIPA) to violate the confidentiality of journalists’ sources, while the number of police raids with the same objective increased in Italy (77th, down 4).

Some of the threats to journalists were directly linked to rising nationalism, such as the death threats in Sweden (8th, down 3).

Published by Reporters Without Borders annually since 2002, the World Press Freedom Index analyses pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative environment, transparency, infrastructure and abuses.

Top 10

These are the top 10 countries according to the 2016 World Press Freedom Index.

1) Finland
2) The Netherlands
3) Norway
4) Denmark
5) New Zealand
6) Costa Rica
7) Switzerland
8) Sweden
9) Ireland
10) Jamaica

Thomas Lundberg


Thomas Lundberg

Born as a Swede in the Netherlands, this life-long expat has spent his time in Belgium, the United States and Amsterdam. He began his professional career as a regional news...

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