The Danish press corps operates in the fourth best country for media freedom. Photo: Mathias Løvgreen Bojesen/Scanpix
The RSF’s annual World Press Freedom Index ranked Denmark as the world’s fourth best country for a free press, behind only Finland, the Netherlands and Norway.
At the bottom of the list was what the RSF called the “infernal trio” of Turkmenistan (178th), North Korea (179th) and Eritrea (180th).
Although Denmark was near the very top, its fourth place finish was one slot lower than last year’s ranking.
Somewhat ironically, the institution fighting for journalists worldwide appeared to have made a faux pas when preparing its country description for Denmark.
RSF initially posted a Denmark country description that seemed to clearly indicate it was writing about the Netherlands, a Dutch/Danish mix-up often spotted in international news articles.
“Self-censorship on ‘sensitive’ subjects such as immigration and religion has increased in recent years, especially after controversial film director Théo van Gogh’s murder by a Muslim extremist in 2004,” RSF wrote about the Dutch filmmaker who was killed in Amsterdam.
“Legislation also plays a role. The blasphemy law was repealed in 2013 but defaming or insulting the monarchy r the police is still criminalized and is still punished by imprisonment,” the report stated.
Denmark, however, has not scrapped its blasphemy law despite it being a frequent topic of debate. Likewise, there have been numerous calls to drop the nation's 'racism paragraph', which has featured in several recent high-profile cases, including that of 'the spitting man' and a Danish People's Party politician who compared Muslims to Nazis.
The Netherlands, on the other hand, dropped its blasphemy law in 2013.
The RSF description of Denmark appeared to have mixed up some details with the Netherlands. The information has since been removed.
When contacted by The Local, RSF apologized for the apparent mix-up and removed the Dutch details from the Danish description.
It’s perhaps understandable that the two countries were swapped, as they performed similar well in rankings that otherwise revealed that press freedom is on the retreat worldwide.
On a global scale, RSF warned that “a climate of fear and tension” and increased government control seriously threatens the future of journalism.
The report pointed to the “increasingly authoritarian tendencies” of governments in countries including Turkey and Egypt and deteriorating security situations for journalists in global hotspots as key factors dragging down media freedom around the world.
“It is unfortunately clear that many of the world’s leaders are developing a form of paranoia about legitimate journalism,” RSF secretary-general Christophe Deloire said.
The report said that every continent saw its press freedom scores decline since the last annual report. Europe, it said, is on “a downhill course”.
RSF said that European media is increasingly falling under the control of conglomerates at the same time that European governments are cracking down on press freedoms.
This is also true in Denmark, where RSF pointed out that three companies own 80 percent of all of the nation's newspapers.
The World Press Freedom Index is based on questionnaires completed by journalists in 180 countries. The full report can be accessed here.