Cuts in funding to Flemish radio and television broadcaster VRT have caused Belgium to drop three places on the World Press Freedom Index, said Reporters Without Borders (RSF).
"Press freedom and the situation of journalists are worsening in Belgium, which has fallen again in the World Press Freedom Index," RSF said. Belgium now ranks 12th in the global index, which was updated on Tuesday.
"For the first time ever, journalists with the Flemish-language VRT television broadcaster protested in Flanders about a lack of resources and budget cuts imposed by the Flemish government," RSF cited as a reason for the drop.
In Wallonia, "an outcry about the newspaper L’Avenir’s arbitrary dismissal of journalists who had taken too much interest in a financial scandal involving Nethys, the energy and telecommunications company that owns the newspaper" also influenced RSF's decision to put Belgium in 12th place.
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"Europe continues to be the most favourable continent for media freedom, despite oppressive policies in certain European Union and Balkan countries," RSF said. Europe is followed by the Americas, Africa and the Asia-Pacific region. The Eastern Europe/Central Asia region is second-to-last, while the Middle East and North Africa constitute the lowest-ranking region.
RSF warned of several crises facing journalism today. They notably refer to a geopolitical crisis, with authoritarian regimes making "every effort to suppress information" and impose their own visions.
Other threats include a technological crisis due to a lack of regulation in digitalised and globalised communication, a democratic crisis as certain leaders "continue to openly foment hatred towards journalists," a crisis of trust in the media and an economic crisis due to the media's digitalisation.
The Brussels Times