Press freedom in Belgium remains ‘source of concern’, Reporters without Borders says
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Press freedom in Belgium remains ‘source of concern’, Reporters without Borders says

Credit: Belga

The situations of journalists and press freedom in Belgium remains a source of concern according to the non-profit organisation Reporters without Borders (RSF), which cited a growing awareness of abuse of journalists.

Some politicians continue to show concern about press freedom in the country, RSF said in its World Press Freedom Index, which it published on Tuesday and in which Belgium is ranked in 11th place out of 180 countries, up by one place from the year before.

“During a Black Lives Matter protest in Brussels, police manhandled, threatened, and detained photo-journalist Jérémy Audouard although he showed them his press ID. The police opened an investigation into the incident after it caused an outcry, as Belgian law allows any citizen or journalist to photograph or film the police and disseminate the images,” RSF said.

It recognised that the Walloon regional parliament passed a resolution calling on the Walloon government to explicitly condemn arbitrary arrests of journalists.

Covid-19: Opportunity for press freedom restrictions

The RSF index found that the exercise of journalism was “totally or partially blocked” in more than 130 countries in 2020, and deems the situations “very serious”, “difficult” or “problematic” for journalists in 73% of the 180 countries which it evaluated, ranking these black, red, or orange on the press freedom map.

Meanwhile, the situation for journalists was deemed “good” in just 12 countries, or 7% of the evaluated countries, down from 8% last year. “This white zone hasn’t been this low since 2013”, according to RSF.

“The Covid-19 pandemic has represented a form of opportunity for states to restrict press freedom,” said the RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire, who added that it further worsened the repression in the most “muzzled” countries such as Iran, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Syria.

“It has also resulted in a huge closure of access to the field and to sources of information for journalists. The situation is all the more worrying because journalism is the main bulwark against the virality of disinformation, sometimes fuelled by governments themselves,” said Deloire.

At the top of the table, Norway remains in first place for the fifth consecutive year, followed by Finland and Sweden.

Lauren Walker
The Brussels Times