PARIS - Reporters Without Borders published its annual report on the state of press freedom in the world. At least it can be called disturbing. In Europe, but also in Belgium, journalists are increasingly under pressure. Traditional front runners are, as always, the Scandinavian countries, with Norway for the third year on top. Belgium drops from 7 to 9.
Europe is still the region where press freedom is the most respected and which is in principle the safest, but journalists are nevertheless exposed to serious threats: murder in Malta, Slovakia and Bulgaria; to verbal and physical attacks in Serbia and Montenegro; and to an unprecedented level of violence against journalists during the protests of the yellow vests in France. In Hungary, officials from Fidesz, Prime Minister Viktor Orbán's party, continue to refuse to speak with journalists who are not from pro-government media. In Poland the state media have turned into propaganda tools and are increasingly being used to harass journalists, according to the report.
Reporters Without Borders is also not positive about Belgium:
"Press freedom and the situation of journalists are worsening in Belgium, which has fallen sharply in the World Press Freedom Index. Journalists were alarmed by a government directive on the relationship between the judicial system and media, under which a judge can vet a media outlet’s work before publication, and decide what the Belgian public can or can not see. This is in direct violation of the constitution, which says “the press is free” and “censorship can never be introduced.” The outcry in response to this restriction on the freedom to inform was fueled by the fact that it followed the brief arbitrary arrest of journalists from the state-owned French-language radio and TV broadcaster RTBF in June 2018, in connection with their reporting on a camp for migrants."