The international organization defending press freedom, Reporters without Borders, placed Poland in 57th place in the latest media freedom ranking (compared to 66th place in 2022). The top, usually dominated by Scandinavian countries, has undergone a unique change. Vietnam, China and North Korea performed the worst. – Poland is the fifth worst country in Europe from the point of view of press freedom – commented Pavol Szalai, head of the Office for European Union and Balkan Reporters Without Borders, in an interview with TVN24 journalist Michał Sznajder
The report adopted a five-point assessment of the situation of media freedom in 180 countries. The situation was assessed as “very serious” in 31 countries, “bad” in 42 countries, “problematic” in 55 countries, “fairly good” in 52 countries, “satisfactory” in 44 countries and “good” in 44 countries. ” – in the 8th
Scandinavia at the forefront
The 2023 Reporters Without Borders media freedom ranking is dominated by Scandinavian countries: Norway ranks first, Denmark third, Sweden fourth and Finland fifth.
The ranking notes that Norway ranked first for the seventh time, with the exception of second place, which was ranked by Ireland. The Netherlands increased by 22 places, returning to the 6th place it occupied in 2021. The authors of the ranking reminded that the drop was related to the murder of a journalist Peter R. de Vries.
The situation around media freedom has gone from “problematic” to “very serious” in three countries: Tajikistan, India and Turkey (whose citizens will vote in the presidential election this month).
Describing the situation in Europe, Germany has fallen by five places (21st place), Poland has increased by nine places (57th place), and France has increased by two places (24th place). The low position of Greece (107th place) was also noticed.
Changes at the end of the ranking
There have also been changes at the end of the ranking. Currently, the last five places are occupied by Asian countries: Turkmenistan (176th place), Iran (177th place), Vietnam (178th place), China (179th place) and North Korea (180th place).
In 2022, these were: Myanmar, Turkmenistan, Iran, Eritrea and North Korea. China was ranked 175th last year.
Commenting on China’s drop by four places, Reporters Without Borders recalled that the country imprisons the largest number of journalists and is “one of the largest exporters of propaganda content”.
“The World Press Freedom Index shows significant volatility, including large ups and downs, as well as unprecedented shifts, including Brazil moving up 18 places (from 110th to 92nd) and Senegal dropping 31 places (from 73rd). This instability is the result of increased aggressiveness on the part of the authorities in many countries and a growing dislike of journalists, including on social media. Noticeable changes are also a consequence of the expansion of the industry that creates and disseminates disinformation, “commented Christophe Deloire, secretary general of Reporters Without Borders.
Artificial intelligence ‘wreaks havoc on the media world’
The report noted the development of artificial intelligence (AI), which was assessed as “wreaking havoc in the world of media”. Extremely realistic images depicting the “arrested” were recalled Donald Trump” and “looking exhausted Julian Assange‘a in prison’ that were created by the Midjourney tool.
The decisions of the head of Twitter Elon Musk were also mentioned, who, according to the authors of the report, “insists on arbitrary, based on payments approach to information, thus showing that platforms of this type are a shaky ground for journalism.
The role of Russia (164th in the ranking this year, 155th in the ranking in 2022) in the transmission of propaganda content was also marked.
“Moscow has created a new media arsenal in record time to spread the Kremlin’s messages in the occupied territories of southern Ukraine,” it said. Added that Russia Vladimir Putin “is cracking down harder than ever on the last remaining Russian independent media outlets that have been banned, blocked and/or labeled as ‘foreign agents’ in the country.”
Poland higher in the ranking, but…
Poland was ranked 57th in this year’s ranking. Thus, it recorded an increase by nine places (compared to 66th place in 2022).
The position of our country in the ranking was discussed in an interview with TVN24 journalist Michał Sznajder by Pavol Szalai – head of the Office for the European Union and the Balkans of Reporters Without Borders.
– Poland is ranked 57th out of 180 countries, which means that it has moved up nine places in the Press Freedom Index. Nevertheless, the result, which improved only slightly, indicates that there has been no significant improvement in the situation of press freedom in Poland. What’s more, Poland is the fifth worst country in Europe from the point of view of press freedom, Szalai pointed out.
He explained that Poland moved up nine positions “due to the decline of other countries”. – The increase is not large and indicates that 2022 was relatively calm in Poland from the point of view of press freedom – he explained. – The greatest improvement can be seen from the point of view of the safety of Polish journalists, who have faced fewer attacks and arbitrary arrests than in previous years. This could also be explained by the lower number of protests in the country, he added.
“On the other hand, when we look at the lack of progress in the political and legal environment, it has to be admitted that the government has traditionally done nothing in terms of increasing political pressure in 2022,” he noted.
Government ‘attempts to unlawfully restrict media freedom’
When asked what political and legal challenges he was referring to, Szalai said that “early this year, we saw again the government trying to unlawfully restrict media freedom.” He mentioned activities National Broadcasting Council. – The media regulator recently launched an arbitration against media critical of the government. We absolutely reject these procedures, for example against TVN or other media. We reject the legitimacy of the penalties that were recently imposed by the National Broadcasting Council on TOK FM due to one of the broadcasts, he declared.
According to Szalai, the National Broadcasting Council “uses its prerogatives to undermine the arbitrariness of the media.”
> The National Broadcasting Council imposes a fine on TOK FM. “This is a ruthless attack on an independent media”
> TOK FM fined by the National Broadcasting Council. Journalists about “bogey” and “weakening” the media
Lex pilot from which the government has withdrawn
The conversation also touched on the topic of lex pilot – proposals for amendments to the Broadcasting Act from which the government withdrew. It is about a project in which one of the provisions was to determine the order of television channels on the remote control so that the first five places would be government television channels.
– This law was definitely discriminatory towards independent media, and beneficial for state television, which is definitely a medium of pro-government propaganda. We have criticized this law and it is very good news that it has been withdrawn. We hope that it will not be voted on again (in the Sejm), although we do not really know when we are dealing with the current government, which is not friendly to media freedom, Szalai said.
– In Poland, in the media sphere, unfortunately, it is a common practice that media laws are not only proposed against the will of independent media, but are also de facto designed to undermine their position – he assessed.
What before the elections?
Szalai was also asked about the time before the upcoming parliamentary elections in our country. He pointed out that during this period there are frequent attacks on journalists, “because some politicians or other will come to the conclusion that it will be beneficial for their electorate.”
– We ask all parties to give the media access to their representatives so that citizens watching all media can form their own opinion. On the other hand, we ask the media in Poland to give fair and proportionate access to their antenna to all important candidates in the interest of citizens’ right to information, he appealed.
Poland’s position in the media freedom ranking dropped significantly after the takeover of power by Law and Justice. In 2015, Reporters Without Borders ranked Poland in 18th place. In 2016 already on the 47th, in 2017 – on the 54th, in 2018 – on the 58th, in 2019 – on the 59th, in 2020 – on the 62nd, in 2021 – on the 64th, and in 2022 year – on 66.
How the ranking is created
The new Reporters Without Borders ranking methodology, implemented in 2021, is based on the definition of press freedom as “the ability of journalists – as individuals and collectives – to select, create and disseminate information in the public interest, independent of political, economic, legal and social interference without any risk to their physical and mental health.
The index is shaped by five indicators: the social framework, as well as the following areas: political, economic, socio-cultural and security.
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