Press Freedom Declining in Balkans, Report Says

The 2014 report from the US-based watchdog Freedom House has underlined a global decline in freedom of the press, blaming it on harsher laws and increased violence against journalists.

The report classified the Western Balkans as a region that saw a sharp deterioration in terms of freedom of the press.

Freedom House gives each of the 199 countries and territories a total press freedom score ranging from 0 (best) to 100 (worst) on the basis of 23 questions divided into three sub-categories.

"A number of countries in the Western Balkans continued to exhibit a worrying pattern of press freedom violations in 2014," the report says.

"These media environments feature several common problems: the use of defamation and insult laws by politicians and businesspeople to suppress critical reporting; pro-government bias at public broadcasters; editorial pressure from political leaders and private owners that leads to self-censorship; harassment, threats, and attacks on journalists that go unpunished; and opaque ownership structures," the report added.

Macedonia's score has declined 10 points in the past five years, making it the worst performer in the region, according to the Freedom House.

It expressed special concern about the issue of the journalist Tomislav Kezarovski who was sentenced to four-and-a-half years in prison for having revealed the identity of a protected witness in a murder case. In 2014, Macedonia scored 58 points, the lowest in the Balkans.

"Several opposition-oriented outlets have been forced to close during this period," Freedom House noted.

In Serbia during 2014, the government of Aleksandar Vu?i? sought to curb reporting on the floods that hit the country in May and directed increasingly hostile rhetoric...

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