Special Report

How Free Is the Press in the World's Richest Countries

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45. Greece
> Population: 10,716,322
> GDP per capita: $31,399
> Freedom of the press score in 2020: 28.8 — 65th out of 180 (“problematic”)
> Freedom of the press score in 2019: 29.1 — 65th out of 180 (“problematic”)
> Worst area of press freedom: Media independence
> Best area of press freedom: Legislative framework

Freedom of the press has improved slightly in Greece since last year, although the country still has one of the worst environments for censorship of the media among wealthy nations. Recently, journalists have been attacked and detained by police, and the headquarters of a weekly newspaper was raided by an anarchist group. Additionally, one broadcasting firm and the state news agency were both placed under the supervision of the country’s prime minister. Greater media independence and transparency would go a long way to improve press freedom in Greece.

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44. Latvia
> Population: 1,912,789
> GDP per capita: $32,204
> Freedom of the press score in 2020: 18.6 — 22nd out of 180 (“satisfactory”)
> Freedom of the press score in 2019: 19.5 — 24th out of 180 (“satisfactory”)
> Worst area of press freedom: Media independence
> Best area of press freedom: Legislative framework

Media outlets in Latvia are allowed to operate freely, face relatively few legal restrictions, and represent a wide range of political views. While Latvia ranks better than most wealthy countries for press freedom, the country is not without some troubling issues. Politicians regularly verbally attack media outlets and the country’s public media is woefully underfunded. Latvia’s media landscape is also growing less diverse as the country’s oldest TV channel was shut down in 2019 and its newsroom merged with another existing channel.

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43. Romania
> Population: 19,356,544
> GDP per capita: $32,297
> Freedom of the press score in 2020: 25.9 — 48th out of 180 (“problematic”)
> Freedom of the press score in 2019: 25.7 — 47th out of 180 (“problematic”)
> Worst area of press freedom: Media independence
> Best area of press freedom: Legislative framework

Out of the 180 nations reviewed by Reporters Without Borders, Romania ranks 48th for press freedom. Unlike many wealthy countries that rank higher, Romania’s political and ruling class encourages censorship by pressuring journalists to reveal sources and minimize criticism of leadership. Corruption in the media undercuts journalistic integrity and news outlets often act as a medium for political propaganda.

Although Romania’s press is considered to be more free than the press in most of the rest of the world, it lags behind most of the 50 wealthy countries on this list.

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42. Panama
> Population: 4,246,439
> GDP per capita: $32,762
> Freedom of the press score in 2020: 29.8 — 76th out of 180 (“problematic”)
> Freedom of the press score in 2019: 29.8 — 79th out of 180 (“problematic”)
> Worst area of press freedom: Media independence
> Best area of press freedom: Legislative framework

Of all wealthy countries in both North and South America, Panama ranks as having the worst free press. Though most media outlets in the country are privately owned, the government still controls access to information and pressures media companies through allocation of state advertising revenue. Journalists in the country are often fined through defamation cases when they are critical of government policy or cover corruption.

Despite these and other problems, press freedom is far better in Panama than it is in many of its poorer regional neighbors.

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41. Hungary
> Population: 9,769,949
> GDP per capita: $33,979
> Freedom of the press score in 2020: 30.8 — 89th out of 180 (“problematic”)
> Freedom of the press score in 2019: 30.4 — 87th out of 180 (“problematic”)
> Worst area of press freedom: Media independence
> Best area of press freedom: Pluralism

Hungary’s ruling party has tight control over the country’s media landscape — which is dominated by a pro-government foundation. Independent journalists in the country are banned from certain events and from asking questions to members of parliament. Generally, politicians who hold power do not give interviews to outlets that are critical of the government. Investigative reporting on government corruption is generally published through online outlets.

Greater media independence and transparency would greatly improve press freedom in Hungary.