Latvia among top 30 on press freedom

Latvia has been ranked in 28th place in the latest World Press Freedom Index produced by journalists' organization Reporters Without Borders (RSF).

While it's positive that Latvia remains among the top 30 countries worldwide, of concern is the fact it has slipped 4 places compared to 2016's result.

"The Latvian-language media enjoy a great deal of independence. But the media that serve one third of the population of Latvia — those who speak mostly Russian — are strong supporters of the pro-Kremlin Harmony party (Saskaņa) and are riddled with propaganda and fake news. Defamation is still criminalized throughout Latvia, despite efforts to remove it from the Criminal Act. And, even worse, whistleblowers and leakers are likely to be prosecuted and convicted, especially if they publish true facts revealing corruption," says the verdict on Latvia. 

In comparison, Estonia rose 2 places to 12th position in the index, Lithuania fell 1 place to 36th and Poland plummeted 7 places to 54th.

All three Baltic states rank ahead of the United States and are more than 100 places ahead of Russia.

Norway was ranked first. At the other end of the scale, unsurprisingly, was North Korea.

Over all, Reporters Without Borders paints a fairly bleak picture of media coming under intense pressure from states, business interests and criminal groups.

"The 2017 World Press Freedom Index reflects a world in which attacks on the media have become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise. We have reached the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms," the report says.

"In sickening statements, draconian laws, conflicts of interest, and even the use of physical violence, democratic governments are trampling on a freedom that should, in principle, be one of their leading performance indicators. The decline is not new. It was already noticeable in previous Indexes. But what is striking in this year’s Index is the scale and the nature of the violations seen," it laments.

Media freedom’s erosion is particularly visible in the European democracies. Even the Nordic top performers that have traditionally headed the Index have dropped a few places – and Finland has lost its No. 1 position for the first time in six years partly as a result of the prime minister's meddling in public broadcaster Yle’s programming to prevent coverage of a possible conflict of interest in which he was alleged to be involved.

You can read the full report HERE.

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