Austria Leads Nations In Press Freedoms

News Brief: Dec., 2010/Jan., 2011

Austria ranked seventh in the recently released 2010 World Press Freedom Index compiled by the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders (Reporteurs san frontiers RSF), up from 13th place last year.

This year, Austria came in just behind a six-way tie for first among Finland, Iceland, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland, in the annual survey, which measures the level censorship, access to information and threats to journalists in each country.

To compile the rankings, a 43-criteria questionnaire is filled out by partner organizations of RSF, more than 100 correspondents, and various other journalists, researchers and human rights activists around the world, who record various threats to press freedoms. This year Austria came in with a score of 0.5 (with a 0.0 being a perfect score). The 2009 edition of the index rated the country at 3.0.

The EU generally scored well on this year’s index, with 13 of the 27 member countries placing in the top 20. Despite this, this year’s World Press Freedom Index was quick to point out that “liberticidal legislative activity” and “anti-press proceedings brought by political leaders” are undermining Europe’s freedom of expression values. Consequentially, several EU countries did not have very flattering standings this year; neighboring Italy placed 49th, Romania came in at 52nd and Greece and Bulgaria tied for 70th place.

“If it does not pull itself together, the European Union risks losing its position as world leader in respect for human rights,” said RSF secretary-general Jean-François Julliard in the report. “And if that were to happen, how could it be convincing when it asked authoritarian regimes to make improvements?”

Coming in last among the 178 nations surveyed was the tiny, east-African country of Eritrea.

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