The United Kingdom has risen one place to 23rd in this year’s global press freedom league table, compiled by campaign group Reporters Without Borders.
The country shares the 23rd ranking with Hungary and Namibia and is marginally behind other EU member states including Germany, Portgual, the Netherlands, Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland.
The Reporters Without Borders research, based on data covering the 12 months to the end of August, is based on a survey of freedom of speech groups, journalists and human rights activists.
It found that European countries occupied all but two of the top 20 positions – sitting alongside New Zealand and Canada.
Bulgaria was found to be the worst European country for press freedom, in 59th place.
The top position was shared between Iceland, Luxembourg and Norway. The Republic of Ireland came joint-fourth alongside Estonia and Finland.
China’s ranking in the year of the Bejing Olympic Games fell from 163rd to 167th.
Another emerging power, India, rose from 120th to 118th, and Russia’s ranking also improved – up from 144th to 141st.
Reporters Without Borders found the bottom three places were occupied for the second year running by what it described as “the infernal trio” – Turkmenistan in 171st, North Korea in 172nd and Eritrea in 173rd place.
“The world’s closed countries, governed by the worst press freedom predators, continue to muzzle their media at will, with complete impunity, while organisations such as the UN lose all authority over their members,’Reporters Without Borders said.
“In contrast with this generalised decline, there are economically weak countries that nonetheless guarantee their population the right to disagree with the government and to say so publicly.”