On this World Press Freedom Day, it is important to remember that press freedom is never guaranteed as highlighted by the preliminary results of the forthcoming Media Pluralism Monitor 2022, which has analysed the overall status of media pluralism in the year 2021.
While journalists’ working conditions have been declining for many years, 2021 marks no exception. The negative effect of the pandemic is still perceptible in the EU members states as well as in the candidate countries, impacting journalists’ social security as well as physical safety. Besides, it must be stressed that journalists continue to face increasing digital threats, such as online harassment and coordinated smear campaigns coordinated either by the state or by non-state actors. No countries score a low risk regarding the online safety of journalists.
As far as the economic sustainability of the media, the provisional data of the MPM2022 shows that 2021 registered a slight improvement in comparison with 2020, when it was severely hit by the COVID 19 crisis. However, media revenues in the majority of cases are not back to the 2019 level. The indicator of Media viability is still around a medium-high level of risk. On the one hand, the rebound of the digital advertising market benefited the media content providers only to a limited extent, being overwhelmingly gathered by the digital intermediaries (platforms). On the other hand, the media continue to face difficulties in monetizing their content in the digital environment, particularly in some countries where the alternative models, based on the willingness of the readers/users to pay, are less developed. The economic indicators of risks are at the highest level in the newspaper sector.
The economic crisis exposes the media to external influences, both from the governments and the business influence. The indicator on Commercial and owner influence over editorial content is confirmed around a medium-high level of risk. Media independence can also be jeopardised by political influence. The major risk regarding the Political influence on the media comes from the indicator on Political Control over Media Outlets, which stays slightly below the high risk threshold. Newspapers and audio-visual media are still evaluated as being at much higher risk of political control than are other forms of media. In many countries, the absence of law or the inefficiency of the legal framework containing limitations to direct and indirect control of media by party, partisan group, or politicians is still a problem
On top of these considerations, it must be stressed that Russia’s war in Ukraine has shown once again that (dis)information may constitute a threat to democracy and peace. European authorities have acted swiftly to deal with the propaganda spread by RT, Sputnik and other Russia-based outlets on the EU’s territory, but the debate is still ongoing about the best ways to keep audiences safe from foreign information manipulations without unnecessarily limiting the freedom of expression.
The results of the previous MPM edition are accessible via the following link: https://cmpf.eui.eu/mpm2021-results/