In the 2022 issue of the World Press Freedom Index, Reporters Without Borders ranked the four Nordic countries and Estonia as having the most free press in the world. Norway scored highest, followed by Denmark, Sweden, Estonia, and Finland.
The Estonian ranking is a major improvement after ending up in 11th place in 2019, 14th in 2020 and 15th in 2021. According to Baltic Times, Estonian Foreign Minister Eva-Maria Liimets commented on the 2022 ranking, explaining that “Estonia has a leading role in defending media freedom in the world.”
In a comment, Emerging Europe notes that the political culture in Estonia is characterized by “relative neutrality” in its relations to the press. At the same time, in their assessment of Estonia, Reporters Without Borders, RWB, observed that “journalists face the risk of self-censorship due to anti-defamation legislation and cyber-bullying.”
On the Norwegian freedom of press, RWB concludes:
Norway’s legal framework safeguarding freedom of the press is robust. The media market is vibrant, featuring a strong public service broadcaster and a diversified private sector with publishing companies guaranteeing extensive editorial independence.
Norway is also said to have a political environment favorable to journalism. The country’s politicians generally “refrain from labeling unfavorable coverage as ‘fake news’.”
Denmark, while scoring second in the world for freedom of the press, is reprimanded in the Index report:
In late 2021, police and defense intelligence agencies undertook what was an extraordinary attempt to intimidate journalists and to threaten the secrecy of their sources, while referring to legal clauses related to high treason, although they are never applied during times of peace.
Swedish press, while remaining relatively free, is continuously “targeted by threats, online hate campaigns and abusive lawsuits.” This negatively affects the ability of the press to operate freely.
Venezuela and North Korea take turns occupying the spot for the worst freedom of press in the world.
Sven R. Larson is a political economist and author. He received a Ph.D. in Economics from Roskilde University, Denmark. Originally from Sweden, he lives in America where for the past 16 years he has worked in politics and public policy. He has written several books, including Democracy or Socialism: The Fateful Question for America in 2024.