World Press Freedom Index Ranks Netherlands 2nd Despite Charging Lawmaker with Anti-Islam Hate Speech

Dutch Politician Geert Wilders

The same organization that downgraded the U.S. to 46th in the world this year in its annual World Press Freedom Index also ranked the Netherlands 2nd overall—this after the Dutch government recently charged politician Geert Wilders for hate speech for highly critical statements he made about Islam.

Reporters Without Borders, the group that publishes the World Press Freedom Index, provides a world-wide ranking of 180 countries the group claims is based on each country's degree of freedom of information, taking into account the independence of the media from government strictures and oversight, the journalistic climate of each nation, and governmental abuses of power.

This year, the index steeply downgraded the U.S. 14 spots, from 32nd to 46th, while continuing to rank the Netherlands 2nd overall.

The 2014 World Press Freedom Index spotlights the negative impact of conflicts on freedom of information and its protagonists. The ranking of some countries has also been affected by a tendency to interpret national security needs in an overly broad and abusive manner to the detriment of the right to inform and be informed. This trend constitutes a growing threat worldwide and is even endangering freedom of information in countries regarded as democracies. Finland tops the index for the fourth year running, closely followed by Netherlands and Norway, like last year.

The organizations’ consistently high view of the Netherlands might come as a surprise to those who followed the case of controversial and highly popular Dutch politician Geert Wilders, who in 2010, was brought to trial for hate speech by the government for his adamant anti-Islam sentiments. As CNS News reported in October of that year:

Amsterdam (AP) - Dutch anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders went on trial Monday for alleged hate speech, even as his popularity and influence in the Netherlands are near all time highs.

Prosecutors say Wilders incited hatred against Muslims with remarks comparing Islam to Naziism and by calling for a ban on the Quran. Wilders argues he has a right to freedom of speech and his remarks were within the bounds of the law.

If convicted, he faces up to a year in prison. He could keep his seat in parliament.

Though Wilders was eventually acquitted of the charges, his case hardly fits the portrait of a political environment that deserves to be ranked second in the world in the promotion of free speech. 

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