Paris-based NGO Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has published the 2019 World Press Freedom Index, an annual ranking of countries and territories based upon the organization’s assessment of their press freedom records. 

The 2019 Index shows how hatred of journalists has degenerated into violence, contributing to an increase in fear. “The number of countries regarded as safe, where journalists can work in complete security, continues to decline, while authoritarian regimes continue to tighten their grip on the media. The hostility towards journalists expressed by political leaders in many countries has incited increasingly serious and frequent acts of violence that have fueled an unprecedented level of fear and danger for journalists”, the RSF stated.

Bosnia and Herzegovina is ranked 63rd among 180 countries, and the 2019 World Press Freedom Index reads that “the polarized political climate, marked by constant verbal attacks and nationalist rhetoric, has created a hostile environment for press freedom in the country”.

Editorial policies reflecting ethnic divisions and hate speech are ever more evident (in Bosnia and Herzegovina). Journalists are attacked for their ethnic origins as well as what they write. Defamation suits by politicians often serve to intimidate journalists and deter them from pursuing their work. Media ownership concentration is a source of concern, especially as ownership is not transparent. Employment conditions for journalists are precarious: they are hired on short contracts and are paid little”, the report reads.

Slovenia is the best-ranked country in the region (34th), while all other countries of former Yugoslavia - Croatia (64th), Serbia (90th), North Macedonia (95th) and Montenegro (104th) - are ranked lower than Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Norway is ranked first in the 2019 Index for the third year running while Finland has taken second place from the Netherlands (down one at 4th), where two reporters who cover organized crime have had to live under permanent police protection. An increase in cyber-harassment caused Sweden (ranked 3rd) to lose one place.

Only 24 percent of the 180 countries and territories are classified as ‘good’ or ‘fairly good’, 37 percent are classified as ‘problematic’, while the situation in the rest of the countries - roughly 40 percent - is classified either as ‘difficult’ or ‘very serious’.

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