24 February 2015

Last week New Zealand media were chuffed to report an improved ranking in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index for 2015.  New Zealand moved up the Index to 6th, from 9th place in 2014. In this index, like almost every measure that relates to good government, Scandinavian countries dominate and Scandinavia –lite New Zealand tags along. Although what is interesting with Scandinavia is how Iceland (now 20th) has lost some of its mojo over the last five years –it was 2nd in 2010. Estonia has demonstrated over the decade how it can claim to be more Scandinavian than European.  It remains in the top 10 this year, while from old Europe, only Netherlands and Austria make the top 10.

Just ahead of Iceland, both Luxembourg (18th) and Switzerland (19th) are slipping in the Press Freedom Index just as they are slipping in the Corruption Perceptions Index. The banking sector particularly in Switzerland has been shown again, through the actions of HSBC, not to comprise honourable and discrete institutions as portrayed for generations.  What the Press Freedom Index may suggest is that the lack of an investigative media facilitates and encourages  corrupt influences within both government and business.  Many national assets can be diverted by powerful  interests.

On the Press Freedom Index,  Greece is among the poorest scoring of European states . At 91st, it is at the mid point on the Index (and ranks only 2 places ahead of Fiji). It also ranks among the more corrupt administrations on the Corruption Perceptions Index.  Graft is palpable.  The media is owned by oligarchs with a vested interest in financial power. There is no effective policing of grand corruption, said to involve about $20 billion each year. The economy is imploding from institutionalized greed . The central bank has been unable to protect the exchequer from Ministers authorising highly questionable loans. The absence of an effective and inquisitive media seems likely to precipitate the decline into a failed state. That may well be Greece’s future.

2015 World Press Freedom Index

1 Finland
2 Norway
3 Denmark
4 Netherlands
5 Sweden
6 New Zealand
7 Austria
8 Canada
9 Jamaica
10 Estonia