"Russia's current rank is the result of the growing repression of the past few years," Johann Bihr, head of the organization's Eastern Europe and Central Asia Bureau, told The Moscow Times on Thursday. "The tipping point has been the crisis in Ukraine, which has reinforced the paranoia and hysteria that have led independent media outlets to be considered a fifth column."
Between 2012 and 2014, Russia placed 148th in the list, which ranks countries' performances in the areas of media pluralism and independence, respect for journalists' safety and freedom, and media-related legislation, among other criteria.
Although Russia currently boasts a lower press freedom ranking than many countries with controversial rights records, it scored well above others, such as North Korea, Iran and Belarus.
Russia's dive in the 2015 list is thought to be linked to the Ukraine crisis. "While Russia's leading television channels continue to inundate viewers with propaganda, the Ukrainian crisis led to an increase in pressure on independent media, with a string of draconian laws, website blocking and leading independent news outlets either being brought under control or throttled out of existence," Reporters Without Borders said in a statement accompanying the new ranking.