Here’s why Germany still lags behind Scandinavia on press freedom

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Here’s why Germany still lags behind Scandinavia on press freedom
Photo: DPA

Germany stagnated in rankings of the world’s media released by Reporters Without Borders (RWB) on Wednesday, while the report claimed global media freedom in the ‘post-truth’ era is more threatened than ever.


The report praised Germany for its strong constitutional guarantees of press freedom, emphasising that the constitutional court has repeatedly ruled in favour of press freedom.

But a placement of 16th in the global ranking means Germany has not improved from its position in 2016, when it slumped four places down the index.

“Journalists continue to be threatened and harassed by right-wing groups and demonstrators without police protection. Prosecutors sometimes push the legal limits during leak investigations,” the report notes.

“A new anti-whistleblower provision penalizes the handling of leaked data without ensuring adequate protection for investigative journalists as well as their sources.”

The law, which governs the work of the BND, Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, permits German spies to carry out surveillance on foreign journalist, claims RBW, and "legalizes infringements on media freedom rather than preventing them.”

A latent economic crisis hitting the German news industry is also cited as a factor damaging Germany's score, as media pluralism is “slowly but steadily” being undermined.

Image: Reporters Without Borders

Norway topped this year’s Index, followed by Sweden, Finland – which dropped to third after six years in the top spot – Denmark and the Netherlands.

The stable press freedom in northern Europe is in contrast to the global situation which has worsened in nearly two thirds of the 180 countries in the Index, said RSF.

The number of countries where the media freedom situation was ‘good’ or ‘fairly good’ has fallen by 2.3 percent.

The 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,” it said.

Press freedom has retreated wherever an authoritarian model has triumphed, it added. While the decline is not new, “what is striking in this year’s Index is the scale and the nature of the violations seen”.

Even in Europe, where the media are generally the most free, the situation has declined, particularly in Poland and Hungary.

The US came 43rd, with the report authors pointing to US President Donald Trump’s verbal attacks towards journalists and attempts to block certain media outlets from White House access.

The UK was also criticized over its adoption of the Investigatory Powers Act which “lacks sufficient mechanisms to protect whistleblowers, journalists and their sources”.

“Donald Trump’s rise to power in the United States and the Brexit campaign in the United Kingdom were marked by high-profile media bashing, a highly toxic anti-media discourse that drove the world into a new era of post-truth, disinformation, and fake news,” said the report.

Published since 2002 the World Press Freedom Index measures indicators including pluralism, media independence and respect for the safety and freedom of journalists.

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