The Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index: Independent Assessment or EU Propaganda? (Part I)

The Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index: Independent Assessment or EU Propaganda? (Part I)

Part I: RSF Finances

Last month, the Paris-based advocacy group Reporters Without Borders released its annual "Press Freedom Index," which ostensibly "measures the level of press freedom in 169 countries throughout the world." (Reflecting its French origins, Reporters Without Borders is most commonly known internationally by its French initials, RSF for Reporters sans frontières, and this acronym will be used here.) The 14 countries performing best in the RSF evaluation were all European, as were 17 of the top 20, 20 of the top 25, and 25 of the top 35. The United States placed a very mediocre 48th -- just behind Nicaragua. "Outside Europe," the RSF press release notes, "no region of the world has been spared censorship or violence towards journalists" -- an assessment that suggests that Europe has indeed been "spared" both.

The performance of European countries in the RSF press freedom rankings is impressive. It becomes less impressive, however, when one knows the extent to which RSF depends for its financing upon European governments: either directly or indirectly via the European Union. RSF is commonly referred to as a "non-governmental organization" or "NGO." But in light of its financial dependence upon and close ties to, in particular, the French government and, above all, European institutions, RSF could be regarded as the very prototype of what might better be called a "PGO": a "para-governmental organization." As will be seen in Part II of this exposé (to be published next week), its highly curious rankings map far better upon the external -- and, in certain cases, internal -- political agenda of the European Union than upon any concrete indicators of press freedoms, or restrictions thereupon, in the countries RSF claims to be objectively evaluating.

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