Berlin, April 25 (CTK) – Press freedom deteriorated in both Czechia and Slovakia as well as globally in 2017 and was particularly challenged in Europe and the USA, according to the annual report of the Reporters without Borders (RSF).
The Czech Republic fell by 11 positions to rank 34th and Slovakia by ten positions to rank 27th.
Commenting on the situation in the Czech Republic, the RSF report cites the example of President Milos Zeman, who amidst a press conference during his visit to Plzen Region in mid-October 2017 raised a mock Kalashnikov rifle that had the inscription “against journalists” written on it.
The report also mentions Zeman’s derogatory comments aimed at journalists, as well as the attempts at re-introducing the crime of defamation of the head of state into law.
Further, the RSF writes that the concentration of media ownership reached a critical point as the “new oligarchs” have used their property to buy newspapers in order to reinforce their power in the country. One of them, PM Andrej Babis, is heading the two most influential dailies in the country, the RSF says.
In its assessment of the state of press freedom in Slovakia, the RSF report highlights the February murder of Slovak investigative journalist Jan Kuciak and his partner, which led to a political crisis in the country and PM Robert Fico’s resignation.
Fico and other Slovak politicians had often unscrupulously attacked the media. There is no solid institution in Slovakia which would protect journalists who are targets of intimidation and various pressures. After Kuciak’s murder, the question of their safety has arisen once again, the RSF writes.
Norway provides the press the biggest freedom, followed by Sweden, the Netherlands and Finland.
North Korea, Eritrea and Turkmenistan stand at the chart’s opposite end.
Malta is the European country that saw the sharpest decline in the chart, that is by 18 positions to rank 65th. This was also due to the murder of Maltese journalist and blogger Daphne Caruana Galizia in 2017.
To the contrary, Gambia, after the fall of the dictatorship regime in 2016, made the most positive move and improved its position by 21 to rank 122th.
Norway kept its top rank, but other 42 countries ranked worse than previously.
Increasingly more democratically elected heads of states and cabinets, such as those of Hungary and Poland, have incitement against media as their state programme, the RSF warns.
Even in countries as different as the USA, India and the Philippines, critical media are being insulted as betrayers by top politicians. The USA, for instance, lost two ranks in the chart during President Donald Trump’s first year in office and ranks 45th now, the RFS states.
Russia kept its 148th position. Pressure on journalists is constantly increasing in the country since the return of Vladimir Putin to Kremlin in 2012, the RSF writes.