Bulgaria has for the second consecutive year been placed 100th in Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom index, again also making it the European Union country with the worst rating.
Although closely challenged by Greece, Bulgaria retains the status of lowest ranked European Union country after a trying year marked by five months of major protests and political tension, Reporters Without Borders said.
Reporters were repeatedly the victims of police violence during these demonstrations calling for the government’s resignation, the organisation said.
Independent journalists, especially investigative reporters, were meanwhile exposed to harassment that can take the form of arson attacks on their cars.
In 2013, the car of journalist Genka Shikerova was set on fire outside her Sofia home. In 2012, investigative reporter Lidia Pavlova’s car was torched, Reporters Without Borders said.
While freedom of information is occasionally abused in some European Union countries, it is repeatedly and blatantly flouted in others, the organisation said.
“This is the case in Greece, which has plunged more than 50 places in the press freedom index in the space of just five years. This is a dizzying fall for the world’s oldest democracy.”
Now jostling Greece in the press freedom index, Hungary has undergone a significant erosion of civil liberties, above all freedom of information, since Viktor Orbán was elected prime minister in 2010, Reporters Without Borders said. Hungary placed 64th.
The EU’s newest member, Croatia, placed 65th.
Six years of negotiations with the European Commission led to significant changes such as the inclusion of references to media freedom and the right of access to information in the constitution, Reporters Without Borders said.
“But much remains to be done,” the report said.
The state radio and TV broadcaster HRT has been criticized for a lack of independence after reforms carried out under centre-left Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic. The head of HRT, the members of its supervisory board and its administrators are now appointed by parliament.
This gives the ruling party political control over broadcast content, the report said.
(Photo: Brano Hudak/sxc.hu)