Journalists surrender to silence easier in Eastern Europe than in Pakistan A contemoirary press room. Photo: (C) Hanns-J. Neubert

Journalists surrender to silence easier in Eastern Europe than in Pakistan

Sir:

While self-censorship is more or less understandable for journalists, who are considerably more exposed to muzzles, harassment, threats and violence – such as Pakistan (see your Journalists surrender to silence in Pakistan, May 10, 2018), it comes as a real surprise that their colleagues in Central and Eastern European countries like Bulgaria, Hungary and Romania appear to have  considerably bigger “scissors in their brains”.

Of the 180 countries covered by the World Press Freedom Index 2018, Pakistan is number 139, while Bulgaria is 111, Hungary 73, and Romania 44, whereof self-censorship in the three European countries is more common. But while this and other similar rankings are based on individual assessments of a handful of interviews, a much clearer comparison of self censorship transpires from analysis of big data such as the one provided by V-Dem, Varieties of Democracy, at the Department of Political Science at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden. Its treasure-dome of a database contains over 18 million data points (>5 billion bits) covering all facets of democracy in 201 countries, often reaching back to the year 1789. It reveals surprising findings regarding self-censorship in journalists’ profession.

Using V-Dem’s data to find out the level of self-censorship among journalists suggests that Pakistan’s journalists between 2008 and 2011 performed better than their colleagues in certain EU member states, and way better than the world average. Later self-censorship increased in general between 2011 and 2014, in Pakistan much more than in Europe. But since 2014 self-censorship in Pakistan becomes slightly less common, even approaching the European level in 2017 – which totally contradicts the feelings of Pakistan’s journalists described in BlueLink’s article.

Compiled with V-Dem v8, Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem), University of Gothenburg 2018

Thus “Journalists surrender to silence in Eastern Europe” – while colleagues in Pakistan more courageously fight for truth, although the situation of the press is really desperate and by far not as comparatively comfortable as in Eastern Europe.

Compiled with V-Dem v8, Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem), University of Gothenburg 2018

Compiled with V-Dem v8, Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem), University of Gothenburg 2018

Why is that so? To answer this question, Eastern European journalists should pump together and discuss self-censorship openly among themselves. And maybe they can get some guidance from Pakistan.