In this top group are countries with strong cultures of press freedom, rich and diverse media markets, and a strong dedication to providing access to government information.
Denmark and Ireland both showed notable improvement in this period. The violent reactions to the 2005 newspaper publication of Muhammad caricatures have receded in Denmark, restoring that country’s traditionally liberal and independent press culture. In Ireland, public and private media are independent of influence, while a new Broadcasting Authority and Press Ombudsman serve as watchdogs for fairness and impartiality.
Media concentration is underway in Norway, Switzerland and Sweden, and a single company dominates Ireland’s print media, but pluralism of opinion remains strong in each.
This group of countries tends to have free media markets that are increasingly marked by consolidation, or in which government influence has made itself lightly felt.
While the USA and the Netherlands have strong traditions of press freedom, Germany’s score was marred by the politically motivated dismissal of a top public TV editor. Pressures such as codes of conduct, anti-terrorism laws or party affiliations threaten to constrain media activity in New Zealand, Australia and Luxembourg.
The change in Poland’s government brought strong improvements in this category relative to the SGI 2009, eliminating a punitive libel law and greatly improving press freedom. However, the passage of a “muzzle law” barring the use of unreleased police wiretap information marred a generally free media market in the Czech Republic.
In Poland, an evident government attempt to silence a critical media outlet sharply undermined the country’s media freedom score. Iceland’s newspapers are tied to powerful economic interests.
Access to government information is often fragmented, with significant red tape, exemptions or active administrative resistance interfering with requests. Organized crime-related corruption in Mexico has substantially undermined transparency relative to the SGI 2009.
In this lower group, substantial government interference with the media has significantly undermined media freedom.
Italy’s media market has been stamped by the prime minister’s personal ownership of one of the country’s most powerful media conglomerates, as well as his legal action against media critics. Mafia retaliations against journalists are also a problem.
Slovakia saw the largest declines relative to the SGI 2009, due to the government’s attacks on and attempts to influence the press, as well as the passage of a restrictive press act. The Fico government also erected strong informal roadblocks to information requests.
The South Korean government’s attempted prosecution of journalists sharply undermined that country’s ranking. Requests for information have also met with significant administrative hurdles.