Special Report

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

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40. Slovakia
> Population: 5,454,073
> GDP per capita: $34,178
> Freedom of the press score in 2020: 22.7 — 33rd out of 180 (“satisfactory”)
> Freedom of the press score in 2019: 23.6 — 35th out of 180 (“satisfactory”)
> Worst area of press freedom: Media independence
> Best area of press freedom: Legislative framework

As is the case in many of the world’s wealthiest countries, press freedom in Slovakia is hampered by government influence and a lack of transparency. In 2018, an investigative journalist was murdered in Slovakia. The killing is believed to have been orchestrated by a businessman who had been surveilling other journalists and had close ties to judges and political figures.

Many major outlets in the country are owned by one of two financial groups — Penta or J&T — and all newspapers are privately owned.

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39. Poland
> Population: 37,970,874
> GDP per capita: $34,218
> Freedom of the press score in 2020: 28.7 — 62nd out of 180 (“problematic”)
> Freedom of the press score in 2019: 28.9 — 59th out of 180 (“problematic”)
> Worst area of press freedom: Media independence
> Best area of press freedom: Pluralism

Poland’s constitution protects freedom of expression and forbids censorship. Still, journalists can face up to a year in jail for defamation and this has a chilling effect on independent media outlets in the country.

TVP, one of the three TV networks that dominate the landscape in Poland, is state owned and in 2015, the controlling party introduced a bill that would allow ministers to appoint the network head. The network has effectively become a propaganda machine and non-compliant employees are terminated. In most of the 50 wealthiest countries in the world, the press has more freedom than in Poland.

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38. Portugal
> Population: 10,269,417
> GDP per capita: $36,471
> Freedom of the press score in 2020: 11.8 — 10th out of 180 (“good”)
> Freedom of the press score in 2019: 12.6 — 12th out of 180 (“good”)
> Worst area of press freedom: Media independence
> Best area of press freedom: Legislative framework

Press freedom — protected under the national constitution — is exemplary in Portugal. Though defamation is illegal in the country, prosecutions are not common. The most outspoken critics of the press in Portugal, unlike much of the rest of the world, are not politicians or the government, but rather soccer clubs that put media outlets in their crosshairs for reporting on potentially unflattering practices.

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37. Lithuania
> Population: 2,786,844
> GDP per capita: $38,214
> Freedom of the press score in 2020: 21.2 — 28th out of 180 (“satisfactory”)
> Freedom of the press score in 2019: 22.1 — 30th out of 180 (“satisfactory”)
> Worst area of press freedom: Media independence
> Best area of press freedom: Legislative framework

Freedom House gives Lithuania a “free” assessment in regard to press freedom. The organization says the Baltic country, which was occupied by the Soviet Union until that nation’s dissolution in 1991, generally respects freedoms of speech and the press, though some media power brokers try to exercise political influence.

The media is on guard for attempts by the government to curtail media freedom. In 2019, new legislation permitted the government to suspend radio or television operations if they are considered a threat to the nation’s security.

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36. Estonia
> Population: 1,326,590
> GDP per capita: $38,811
> Freedom of the press score in 2020: 12.6 — 14th out of 180 (“good”)
> Freedom of the press score in 2019: 12.3 — 11th out of 180 (“good”)
> Worst area of press freedom: Transparency
> Best area of press freedom: Legislative framework

Estonia has one of the best environments for a free press of any country in the world. Unlike some other former Soviet republics, it has not banned rebroadcasting of Russian TV networks — although at the end of 2019, Estonia did force a pro-Russia outlet to close its office in the country, citing EU sanctions on the company’s director-general.

The county’s press freedom rating fell slightly from the previous year as right-wing politicians have verbally attacked journalists. Additionally, last year investigative and opinion journalists at the country’s oldest newspaper resigned en masse over revelations that the paper’s owner was using his position to promote a conservative agenda.