Greece is the lowest-ranked EU country for press freedom, according to the annual World Press Freedom Index released Tuesday.
The southeastern country has replaced Bulgaria as the worst-performing EU nation and now ranks 108th — down from 70th in last year’s index — on a list of 180 countries, compiled by Reporters Without Borders.
While the worst offenders against press freedom are non-EU countries — China, Belarus, Russia, Iran, Myanmar and North Korea — European countries have also seen press freedom deteriorate, including Italy (down 17 spots in comparison to last year’s ranking), Slovenia (down 18 spots), Austria (down 14) and Belgium (down 12).
Greece is among a list of countries including Slovenia, Poland and Hungary which have intensified draconian laws against journalists, the report says. Athens passed a new law last year that makes it an offense for citizens to spread “false information” and is punishable by up to five years in jail.
The report also notes that those responsible for the murder of journalists Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta and Ján Kuciak in Slovakia have yet to be convicted. In Greece, authorities have failed to solve the murder of Greek crime reporter Giorgos Karaivaz, who was gunned down outside his Athens home in April 2021.
To mark World Press Freedom day, the European Parliament will debate the issue of journalists’ safety on Tuesday at the plenary session in Strasbourg, where Transparency Commissioner Věra Jourová will highlight plans together with Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton to propose a “Media Freedom Act.”
The act is intended to enshrine media pluralism and independence in EU legislation, and will call on EU countries to back Brussels’ new law to protect journalists from abusive lawsuits. The measure aims to give courts more power to swiftly dismiss such suits and even use potential penalties against them.
The World Press Freedom index classifies 180 countries according to the level of freedom available to journalists, based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media and safety of journalists in each of the countries.