Press Freedom: Ukraine in 108th place


Freedom House has published its report: Freedom of the Press 2010: A Global Survey of Media Independence in which it reports that “global media freedom has declined for the eighth straight year in a row, with significant losses outnumbering gains by a 2-to-1 margin”. In 2009, there were particularly worrisome trends in sub-Saharan Africa, the Americas, and the Middle East and North Africa

Governments in China, Russia, Venezuela, and other countries have been systematically encroaching on the comparatively free environment of the internet and new media. Sophisticated techniques are being used to censor and block access to particular types of information, to flood the internet with antidemocratic, nationalistic views, and to provide broad surveillance of citizen activity.

While a range of restrictive laws and violence against journalists continue to hamper media freedom, additional reasons for the global decline include the unique pressures placed on media in countries in the midst of political conflict, as well as intensified constraints on internet freedom. The globalization of censorship by countries such as China and international bodies such as the Organization of the Islamic Conference poses an additional threat to freedom of expression, as does the increasingly worrisome phenomenon of “libel tourism” centred on the United Kingdom.

Central and Eastern Europe/Former Soviet Union

Ukraine is in 108th place together with Kosovo, both being rated as Partly Free.  Georgia, in 126th place, is also designated as Partly Free. The following former Soviet republics are classified as Not Free: Moldova (144th place); Armenia (146), Kyrgyzstan (159); Kazakhstan and Tajikistan both in 169th place; Azerbaijan (172); Russia (175); Belarus and Uzbekistan both at 169 and Turkmenistan (

In this region 8 countries (28 percent) remained classified as Free, 11 (38 percent) were rated Partly Free, and 10 (34 percent) were rated Not Free. However, a majority of the people in this region (56 percent) live in Not Free media environments, while only 18 percent have access to free media. In 2009, the region-wide average score showed a modest decline, with an improvement in the political category partly offsetting a drop in the economic category.

While the region shares a common history of communist oppression, the trajectory of countries in the former Soviet Union has diverged significantly from that of Central and Eastern Europe in terms of respect for fundamental political rights and civil liberties. The press freedom ratings for these two sub-regions reflect a similar divergence. All of the countries of Central Europe and the three Baltic states, which have managed to overcome the legacy of Soviet media culture and control, are assessed as Free. By contrast, 10 of the 12 non-Baltic former Soviet states are ranked as Not Free. Of the 196 countries and territories examined in the survey, 3 of the 10 worst press-freedom abusers—Belarus, Uzbekistan, and Turkmenistan—are found in the former Soviet Union. Other countries of particular concern include Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, and Russia.

Russia, which serves as a model and patron for a number of neighbouring countries, continues to have an extremely challenging media environment, marked by the consistent inability of the pliant judiciary to protect journalists; increased self-censorship by journalists seeking to avoid harassment, closure of their media outlets, and even murder; and the frequent targeting of independent outlets by regulators. Reporters suffer from a high level of personal insecurity, and impunity for past murders and other physical attacks is the norm. The state’s control or influence over almost all media outlets remains a serious concern, particularly as it affects the political landscape and Russians’ ability to make informed electoral choices.

Worst of the Worst

The world’s 10 worst-rated countries are Belarus, Burma, Cuba, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Iran, Libya, North Korea, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. In these states, independent media are either nonexistent or barely able to operate, the press acts as a mouthpiece for the regime, citizens’ access to unbiased information is severely limited, and dissent is crushed through imprisonment, torture, and other forms of repression.

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