Latvia slips in press freedom ranking, but still strong

Latvia, which last year was among countries ranked 10th in the world for freedom of the press, has slipped two spots in the latest index compiled by the Paris-based watchdog group Reporters Without Borders.

Along with the Netherlands, Latvia has dropped to 12th in the Worldwide Press Freedom Index, which was released Oct. 16. A total of 169 countries are ranked in the index.

“The Reporters Without Borders index measures the state of press freedom in the world,” the organization states in its report. “It reflects the degree of freedom that journalists and news organisations enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for this freedom.”

The ranking is based on events between Sept. 1, 2006, and Sept. 1 of this year. The index considers government restrictions and attacks on the press, as well as self-censorship and financial pressures.

Latvia was not singled out in the report and press freedom in the nation has been the focus of just one press release during the period covering by the index, according to the Web site of Reporters Without Borders. In June the watchdog group expressed concern about the removal of Arta Giga as director of Latvian State Television’s “De Facto” current affairs program.

However, Latvian media observers in recent months have noted issues such as media concentration, continued pressure on state-run media and the lack of financial support for investigative journalism.

Topping the press freedom index is Iceland. At the bottom of the list is Eritrea, which replaced North Korea in the final spot in the index. Estonia, along with Slovakia, ranked third, up from sixth in last year’s index. Lithuania, which last year ranked 27th, increased to 23rd.

Even with Latvia’s slip in the rankings, it still scored higher than several major Western democracies, including Canada (18th), Germany (20th), the United Kingdom (24th), Australia (28th) and the United States (48th).

Russia ranked 144th.

“Anna Politkovskaya’s murder in October 2006, the failure to punish those responsible for murdering journalists, and the still glaring lack of diversity in the media, especially the broadcast media, weighed heavily in the evaluation of press freedom in Russia,” the organization said in its report.

Andris Straumanis is a special correspondent for and a co-founder of Latvians Online. From 2000–2012 he was editor of the website.

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