The land of the free and the home of the … Danes?

Country scores seventh in world index of freedom, but state-owned media brings down total ranking

As if being the happiest on Earth and the smartest in Europe wasn’t enough, Denmark can now add another ranking to the list – this time coming out near the top as one of the most ‘free’ countries in the world.

The survey, recently published by the Fraser Institute, a Canadian public policy think tank, compiled information from various sources over periods of up to 20 years.

The findings listed Denmark as seventh in an index of freedom around the world – a spot it shares with the United States. New Zealand and the Netherlands claimed the number one and two spots.

The research compiled information regarding personal freedoms across four categories: security and safety, freedom of movement, freedom of expression, and freedom of relationships, and broke the four down into a range of indicator subcategories.

Of the four categories, Denmark received top scores in the movement and relationship categories, which measured restrictions on a person’s ability to leave or move about a country freely, to the freedom of homosexuals to establish relationships.

Denmark also fared well in considerations for security and safety, scoring an average of 7.8 out of ten. The category compiled information regarding governmental and societal threats to human rights, incidences of theft or burglary, and a society’s attitude toward foreigners – an indicator for which Denmark earned a top score of ten.

The country’s showing in the ‘freedom of expression’ category, however, was slightly more mediocre, only earning five out of ten under the ‘freedom of speech’ indicator.

The report clarified that this subcategory measured the extent to which government ownership or censorship influenced the media or individual speech. Countries in which any media outlets were government-owned or funded automatically received mid-range scores – placing Denmark in the same category with countries who scored near the bottom of the overall list.

“Even in democracies, there are restrictions placed on freedoms of speech and the press,” the report explained.

But according to Christoffer Badse, a senior legal advisor for the Danish Institute of Human Rights, Denmark’s score is hardly an indicator of any serious infringements.  

“Denmark generally has a good track record regarding freedom of speech, although there of course can be improvements,” Badse told The Copenhagen Post. “But Denmark should be higher on the scale than average, maybe slightly more or less so than other countries in particular areas – depending on what’s emphasised.”

Badse was also sceptical that government sponsorship of media outlets translated to problematic censorship issues, at least in Denmark.

“[Public broadcaster] DR, for example, is a sound line of journalism, generally speaking,” he said. “We don’t have the kind of problem where we see issues being severely distorted to the public.”

DR's reputation did take a bit of a beating last week, however, when the broadcaster was forced to admit that it was less than truthful on two separate occasions

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