Czech Republic comes fifth in Reporters Without Borders press freedom index

The international press freedom organisation Reporters Without Borders published their annual "Press Freedom Index" this week, after surveying the media in 168 countries throughout the world. The Czech Republic, surprisingly, ranked fifth - sandwiched between the Netherlands and Estonia. But does this country really boast such a high level of press freedom? Rob Cameron has this report.

Each year the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders compiles and publishes a world index of press freedom, and Northern European countries traditionally top the list. The organisation said there was no recorded censorship, threats, intimidation or physical reprisals in Finland, Ireland, Iceland and the Netherlands, which all share first place. Hot on their heels came the Czech Republic, taking fifth place in an index of 168. But how meaningful is the result? Marius Dragomir reports on the media for the Czech Business Weekly.

"This world press index is better used to identify the bad examples. If you look at the methodology or the questions they have used in putting together the index, it's meant more to identify the examples of the countries facing really blatant infringements on media freedom. So I would say that it's a useful index for spotting the harshest attacks on media freedom."

Marius Dragomir says the real problem in the Czech Republic is not so much the freedom of the press but its independence, describing what he calls a "culture of collusion" with the commercial sector and politicians. Journalists frequently agree to their articles being authorised by the people they interview before publication, a practice which he says calls into question the independence of the media.

Reporters Without Borders places the Czech Republic far above other former post-communist countries. Poland, for example, comes 58th. So does Marius Dragomir believe the Czech media really enjoy greater freedom than its Central European neighbours?

"I don't really see a huge difference between the Czech Republic and the other former communist countries. All of them have faced in the past decade or so the same problems, the same attempts to infringe on media freedom. Most of them have made a lot of progress. I wouldn't say the Czech Republic is much more advanced than any of the former communist countries."

The survey is undoubtedly good news for the Czech Republic's international image. However not everyone will agree with its contents. According to Reporters Without Borders, in terms of press freedom the American media languishes in 53rd place - behind that of Mali, Serbia and Mozambique.