Estonia fell for the second year in a row, in Freedomhouse's Freedom of the Press list, published today. Estonia is currently listed as 23rd in the world for press freedom, down from 19th-20th place held last year and from 14th place, held two years ago.
Estonia's close neighbors, Finland, Norway and Sweden took the top spots in the list, whereas Lithuania placed 36th and Latvia 54th.
Estonian analysts say that the fall was caused by the economic crisis, as well as the controversial 'source protection act' passed last year, which has been widely criticized throughout the EU. The 'source protection act' would permit suing newspapers for libel, while newspapers claim it would limit their capacity to use anonymous sources. As a protest against the act, major Estonian publications published blank front pages the day the law was passed year.
Meanwhile, ERR News reports that circulation numbers for all major Estonian publications, save one, have fallen over the past year. This too can be seen as an indication of diminishing freedom of the press. Mart Raudsaar, executive director of the Estonian Newspaper Associaton told ERR News that "freedom of the press may exist, but it must also reach the general population. I'm sure Belarus too has free journalism somewhere, but those publications are deep underground and cannot influence public discourse."