The international press freedom watchdog said the only positive evolution in southern Europe is to be found in Italy, “which has finally emerged from a negative spiral and is preparing an encouraging law that would decriminalize defamation via the media.”
Italy rose to 49th place in the 2014 league, from 57th in 2013 and 61st in 2012.
Once again, Finland, Netherlands and Norway top the list of 180 countries while the worst places for press freedom are Turkmenistan, North Korea and Eritrea.
The UK fell three places, to 33rd, due to the country “distinguishing itself by the harassment of The Guardian following its publication of the NSA and GCHQ leaks by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.”
Italy is preparing a law that would abolish jail terms for journalists found guilty of defamation. The move came after two journalists from the Italian weekly, Panorama, were last year handed one year sentences for an article about a Palermo magistrate’s alleged family connections to the mafia.
Despite the development, journalists in Italy risk their lives reporting on issues such as the mafia and gangland activities.
In a previous profile on Italy, Reporters Without Borders also said that that journalists have fallen victim “to a range of reprisals involving torching of cars and doors of their homes, threatening letters and intimidation of their families, all in the guise of ‘advice’ given to those who persist in exposing what has gone wrong in Italian society."