BTA News

Bulgaria Climbs 12 Notches in World Press Freedom Index

Sofia, May 3 (BTA) – Bulgaria climbs 12 notches to 59th place in Reporters Without Borders’ (RSF) annual media freedom rankings for 2024, published on the occasion of May 3 – World Press Freedom Day, the Association of European Journalists (AEJ) said on Friday.

The country significantly improved its position in the global rating, which includes 180 countries. It remains, however, at the bottom of the European Union, where it has climbed only one place to 23rd, followed only by Hungary, Cyprus, Malta and Greece, the AEJ said.

The international organisation explains the improvement of the media environment in Bulgaria mainly with the fact that in 2023 Bulgaria’s government was led by Nikolay Denkov of Continue the Change, who, according to the organisation’s assessment, demonstrated a willingness to implement reforms in the area of press freedom. RSF also pointed out that Bulgarian institutions have reacted quickly to police violence against journalists.

The organization for the protection of journalists criticizes the government for failing to introduce systematic measures to solve Bulgaria’s “endemic problems”, including the growing number of SLAPP cases. Despite the progress, RSF notes that Bulgaria’s indicators in the areas of politics, economy and security remain relatively low.

RSF’s World Press Freedom Index 2024 reported a worsening of threats and pressures coming from political actors at the global level. Of the five indicators that make up the ranking – economic, political, legal, social context and security – the political indicator declines the most in 2024, by an average of 7.6 points at the global level. Analysts warn of shrinking support and respect for media independence and an increase in pressure from state and other political actors.

Anne Bocande, RSF Editorial Director, commented, “As more than half the world’s population goes to the polls in 2024, RSF is warning of a worrying trend revealed by the 2024 World Press Freedom Index: a decline in the political indicator, one of five indicators detailed in the Index. States and other political forces are playing a decreasing role in protecting press freedom. This disempowerment sometimes goes hand in hand with more hostile actions that undermine  the role of journalists, or even instrumentalise the media through campaigns of harassment or disinformation.”

The organisation draws particular attention to the lack of political will on the part of the international community to implement the principles for the protection of journalists, in particular UN Security Council Resolution 2222. The war in Gaza has been marked by a record number of violations against journalists and the media. More than 100 Palestinian journalists have been killed by the Israeli army, at least 22 of whom have lost their lives while carrying out their professional duties, the AEJ further said.

Of the countries in the region, Serbia dropped seven places to 98th. According to RSF, pro-government media in Belgrade are spreading Kremlin propaganda and authorities are threatening Russian journalists with exile. Russia itself ranks 162nd out of 180 countries. For the third year, the organization says the war that recently re-elected Russian President Vladimir Putin is waging against Ukraine is seriously affecting the safety of media and journalists in that country, which ranks 61st.

The RSF concludes by noting that very strong pressures are expected in all regions of the world where elections will be held in 2024. The organization uses Slovakia as an example, where on the eve of the elections this spring, an artificial intelligence-generated audio recording of the voice of the journalist Monika Todova was released with the aim of influencing the election results. According to RSF, in the absence of regulations on the use of generative artificial intelligence, similar cases of electoral disinformation through manipulated recordings can be expected.

An international conference “New Horizons in Journalism: Elections and Democracy”, organized by the World Press Institute in partnership with AEJ and the America for Bulgaria Foundation, will take place on May 21.