Of 180 countries surveyed, Latvia saw its press freedom ranking rise from 22nd place in 2022 to a creditable 16th place worldwide in 2023, sandwiched between Canada in 15th place and Slovakia in 17th place.
The ranking puts Latvia ahead of countries such as Germany (21), France (24), the United Kingdom (26) and the United States (45). However, Latvia still trails Baltic neighbors Lithuania (7) and Estonia (8).
Norway, Ireland and Denmark formed the top three of the world rankings, with totalitarian North Korea unsurprisingly the worst place in the world to practice journalism.
With regard to Latvia, an accompanying report said "Journalists work in a fairly free and safe environment, but access to trustworthy and pluralistic information, especially by the Russian-speaking population, has been a serious issue."
"Media enjoy independence, and investigative and analytical journalism thrives, allowing journalists to hold politicians accountable. Although the access to public information is wide, transparency has been limited due to restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic and to Russia’s warfare. The media regulator has been criticized for lack of independence from the government."
"Both private and public media struggle with insufficient funding. As for local media, some of them have to compete with news outlets funded by the municipality, whose content is now more strictly controlled. Media ownership is generally transparent and does not raise concerns about market dominance, but more diversity would be favorable to media pluralism. Before elections, politicians regularly attempt to access the ownership of certain media and discredit independent journalists," it adds.
"Journalists work in a generally safe environment, but are subject to verbal attacks on the street and online. Although the police have signed a memorandum on the protection of journalists, there are concerns as to the efficiency of its application. In the run-up to elections, political attacks on the media and attempts to discredit them tend to multiply," the RSF report concludes.
In the wider worldwide context, RSF said journalism faced numerous challenges, including autocratic regimes and the "fake content industry".
Freedom of speech & independence of journalism are best protection of our democracy & countermeasure to disinformation— Edgars Rinkēvičs (@edgarsrinkevics) May 3, 2023
On this #WorldPressFreedomDay I call on the release of all journalists who are unlawfully imprisoned for simply doing their job. Journalism is not a crime