The Netherlands ranks first globally for press freedom

The Netherlands ranks first globally for press freedom

The latest Freedom of the Press report has rated the press in the Netherlands as the equal freest in the world, along with those of Sweden and Norway.

Across the world, on the other hand, press freedom has fallen to its lowest point in over a decade, with set-backs to the open reporting of news by journalists apparent in most continents.

The world’s worst-rated countries were Belarus, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, North Korea, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

The report is compiled by analysts who reach their conclusions after gathering information from professional contacts, the findings of other human rights and free press organisations, specialists in geographic and geopolitical areas, government and multilateral reports, and domestic and international news media.

Global press freedom declines

Of the 197 countries and territories assessed in 2013, a total of 63 were rated free, 68 were rated partly free and 66 were rated not free: roughly a third in each category.

While there were improvements in some places, especially in some Sub-Saharan African countries, the report found an overall decline.

This was driven in part by deterioration in several Middle Eastern countries, including Egypt, Libya and Jordan. The report also found marked setbacks in Turkey, Ukraine and a number of countries in East Africa and a worsening in the relatively open media environment of the United States.

"We see declines in media freedom on a global level, driven by governments' efforts to control the message and punish the messenger," said Karin Karlekar, project director of the report.

"In every region of the world last year, we found both governments and private actors attacking reporters, blocking their physical access to newsworthy events, censoring content and ordering politically motivated firings of journalists."

Press freedom in the Netherlands

Along with Norway and Sweden, the Netherlands was rated as having the world’s freest press, up from second place last year. This comes from having strong legal protections for the press and all citizens being able access to diverse content in all media forms, with governments that respect media freedom and editorial independence.

Also, last year Dutch newspapers launched a website called Publeaks that allows whistle- blowers to securely and anonymously leak information to the press, to help denounce abuses and stimulate investigative journalism.

The one area of difficultly the report identified their struggles with regulating hate speech without imposing burdensome legal restrictions.

Green = free, yellow = partly free and purple = not free. For an interactive version, go here. Global map of press freedom 2014

Press freedom in Europe

Europe as a region has the highest level of press freedom, but the average score for the continent had the second-largest drop worldwide in 2013. While the top 10 countries for press freedom were all in Europe and the majority of countries (69 per cent) are rated free, the region experienced a real set-back in 2013.

The most significant decline was in Turkey, which moved from the partly free into the not free category. Turkey was the world’s leading jailer of journalists in 2013.

The decline in Greece was nearly as strong, following on from a decline in 2012 that took it out of the free and into the partly free category, where it remains. The decline was caused in large part by the government’s abrupt shutdown of public broadcaster Hellenic Broadcasting Corporation (ERT) in June.

A decline was also registered in the UK due to the fall-out from revelations of NSA surveillance in The Guardian, where the newspaper’s offices were searched by security services and hard drives containing potentially sensitive source material were destroyed.

On the other hand, Italy’s score improved slightly, as self-censorship and the influence of advertising revenue on content decreased after Silvio Berlusconi stepped down as premier in late 2011.

Top 10 countries for press freedom

1.   Netherlands
1.   Sweden
1.   Norway
4.   Finland
4.   Belgium
6.   Switzerland
6.   Luxembourg
6.   Iceland
6.   Denmark
10. Andorra

For more information, read the full report.

Source: Freedom House

Alexandra Gowling


Alexandra Gowling

Alexandra is an Australian citizen and an experienced expat, having spent (quite a bit of) time in Asia before coming to the Netherlands a year ago. She enjoys writing, reading...

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