Estonia is ranked 12th in this year’s Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders, a global organisation that promotes free media.
Compared with 2016, Estonia has improved its ranking by two positions. However, Reporters Without Borders says it’s easy in Estonia to bring “defamation lawsuits and journalists have not been spared”.
“Legislative amendments adopted in 2010 made it possible for judges to jail reporters who refuse to reveal their sources for stories about serious crimes,” the organisation says, probably pointing at the Source Protection Act the Estonian parliament adopted in 2010 that gives judges the right to demand testimony from journalists about their sources in cases where the crime in question could be punished by more than eight years in prison; there is a major public interest; and there are no other options to collect evidence about the crime.
Estonia’s southern neighbour Latvia is ranked 28th and Lithuania 36th. The Russian Federation is 148th – quite close to the bottom, 180th place, that quite expectedly lists the most secretive country in the world, North Korea.
Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the World Press Freedom Index is an important advocacy tool based on the principle of emulation between states. Because it is well known, its influence over governments is growing.Many heads of state and government fear its annual publication. 2002. The Index is a point of reference that is quoted by media throughout the world and is used by diplomats and international entities such as the United Nations and the World Bank.
The Index ranks 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country. It does not rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking. Nor is it an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country.
The degree of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries is determined by pooling the responses of experts to a questionnaire devised by RSF. This qualitative analysis is combined with quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated. The criteria used in the questionnaire are pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.
The press freedom map, which is distributed in print and digital versions, offers a visual overview of the sitution in each country in the Index. The colour categories are assigned as follows: good (white), fairly good (yellow), problematic (yellow), bad (red) and very bad (black).