The latest report on media freedom by Reporters Without Borders has ranked Romania best and Macedonia worst in the region.
Romania has been ranked in top place in terms of press freedom in the Balkans, in 45th place out of 180 countries in the survey. Last year, Romania came in at 42nd position.
Serbia came next after Romania, in 54th place, climbing up from 63rd position last year. It is followed by Croatia, at 65, dropping from 64th position in last year's report.
Croatia's public service broadcaster, HRT, has been criticized for a lack of independence as its supervisory board and administrators are now appointed by parliament.
"This gives the ruling party political control over broadcast content," the report said.
Bosnia climbed from 68th to 66th position, while Bulgaria dropped from 87th to 100. According to the report, Bulgaria remains the worst performing EU country.
"Reporters were repeatedly the victims of police violence during demonstrations calling for the government’s resignation," the report noted.
Albania has witnessed improvements – moving up from 102nd to 85th place. The watchdog noted that media ownership is becoming more transparent and public broadcasting more independent in the country.
According to the report, Kosovo has also improved in terms of press freedom. It climbed from 85th to 80th position this year.
Montenegro, which came in at 114, dropped one position compared to previous year. The report said that journalists’ safety continues to be a major concern. It adds that main sources of independent reporting are the daily newspapers Vijesti and Dan and the magazine Monitor, whose journalists are often "the victims of threats and physical attacks."
The media watchdog report said the response from the Montenegrin authorities to this violence had been minimal.
"Almost all cases have gone unpunished, including the 2004 murder of Dan editor Dusko Jovanovic, who was gunned down on the street. The person behind it has never been identified and brought to justice," it said.
Macedonia was named worst performing country in South Eastern Europe, ranking in 123rd position.
"Although Macedonia has been tackling reforms... the democratic window-dressing of the past few years is not enough to hide the many freedom of information violations," the report said.
The watchdog criticises the prison sentence given to the journalist Tomislav Kezarovski, who allegedly revealed the name of a protected witness in a murder case. Also mentioned is the case of journalist Zoran Bozinovski who was arrested under an international arrest warrant for espionage. In 2013, Macedonia stood in 116th place.
The annual report reflects the degree of freedom that journalists, news organizations and citizens enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the authorities to respect and ensure respect for these freedoms.
It is based partly on a questionnaire sent to their partner organizations (18 freedom of expression NGOs in all five continents), to their network of 150 correspondents, and to journalists, researchers, jurists and human rights activists.
By Bojana Barlovac
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