October 17, 2007

Reporters without Borders has published its annual rating of freedom of the press in the world. For the first time in several years, Russia has risen in the rating. This year, it comes in at 144th place among 169 countries. Iceland was ranked first for press freedom in the poll and most of the countries of Europe appear in the Top 50. Russia is in the company of Afghanistan (142nd place), Yemen (143rd place) and Tunisia, Egypt and Rwanda, which occupy 144th-146th places. Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea are in the last places.

Reporters with Borders uses 50 criteria in its rating. It noted the lack of alternate points of view and total state control of the Russian media, especially television, and the danger to the lives of journalists in Russia. It also repeated its call for an “independent international investigation” of the murder of Novaya gazeta newspaper staff member Anna Politkovskaya.

The human rights organization Freedom House ranked Russia 164th out of 195 countries for press freedom this year. The Russian Union of Journalists predicts that things will take a downturn in Russia soon as the government begins pressuring media in connection with the upcoming parliamentary and presidential elections. Ekaterina Zelinskaya, member of the Public Chamber and head of the Mediasoyuz professional organization objected that the ratings are not objective, however. “We have tried many times to understand where the information for the ratings comes from,” she noted. “Some indicators are not supported by factual information.”