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To what extent are the media independent from government?

EUOECD
 
Public and private media are independent from government influence; their independence is institutionally protected and fully respected by the incumbent government.
10
Estonia
Estonia follows a liberal approach to media policy, with minimal legal restrictions. The Estonian Public Broadcasting (ERR) company is constituted under the Estonian Public Broadcasting Act and governed by a ten-member council. Based on the principle of political balance, five of these members are specialists in the fields of culture, while the other four represent political parties holding seats in the national parliament. Members of the ERR Council are elected for five years (MPs until the next parliamentary elections).

Globally, Estonia has been ranked in the top ten on the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders for several years. It ranked 12th in 2017, two places higher than in 2016. The main issues cited are the ease of bringing defamation lawsuits to the courts and the legal requirement for journalists to reveal their sources to legal authorities under certain circumstances.
Finland
Media independence is a matter of course in Finland. Media independence is guaranteed by the Act on the Exercise of Freedom of Expression in Mass Media from 2003, and supported by public and political discourse. A free and pluralist media is considered an important contributor to debate among citizens and the formation of public opinion. Finland has been ranked at or near the top of the Reporters Without Borders’ World Press Freedom Index since 2009; in 2016, Finland took first place, for the sixth year in a row. In 2017, however, Finland ranked 3rd, after Norway and Sweden. Several factors contribute to this rather unique success. Media consumption rates are fairly high in Finland. The rate of media consumption guarantees a strong market and healthy competition, promoting high quality journalism. In addition, the Council for Mass Media in Finland has successfully managed a system of self-regulation among media outlets. Furthermore, as Finland is one of the least corrupt societies in the world, the government has in general not sought to interfere with press freedom. However, at the end of 2016, prominent journalists at the national broadcaster YLE resigned following a dispute over Prime Minister Sipilä’s email complaints about the broadcaster’s coverage of a mining company in which Sipilä’s relatives are stakeholders.
Sweden
Media freedom in Sweden is valued and well-protected. The Swedish constitution’s Freedom of the Press Act and the Fundamental Law on Freedom of Expression guarantee freedom of the press.

The media in Sweden operate independently from government. This is not to say that government is not present in the media sector, however. Government institutions offer financial support to newspapers (typically smaller newspapers) and also to magazines.

Furthermore, government is a leading owner of the public service companies Sverige Radio (SR) and Sveriges Television (SVT). In November 2017, a Royal Commission (SOU 2017:79) suggested that public service radio and television should henceforth be financed not via license fees but through a tax. This matter is likely to be widely debated during 2018.

The media market in Sweden has opened up considerably over the past couple of decades. Today, the SR and SVT face significant competition from privately owned and managed radio and television channels. It is noteworthy that trust is especially high in public media (television and radio), whereas trust in private media (especially television) is low in Swedish society. Private media ownership is concentrated in a small number of major corporate actors inside and outside Sweden.

A precondition for the media to scrutinize government and hold elected officials to account is that the government provides access to public documents. During the last couple of years there appears to be growing frustration among the media against government departments for failing to provide public documents to the media or individual citizens. Government departments increasingly use information as a strategic means of communication. Nevertheless, Swedish government and administration still meet high requirements regarding transparency and publicity.
Citations:
Andersson, U. et al. (eds.) (2017), Larmar och gör sig till (Gothenburg: The SOM Institute) (https://som.gu.se/publicerat/bocker/70.-larmar-och-gor-sig-till).

Johansson, B. et al. (2014), Det politiska spelet. Medborgare, medier och politiker i den representativa demokratin (Lund: Studentlitteratur).

Olsson, J., H. Ekengren Oscarsson and M. Solevid (eds.) (2016), Eqvilibrium (Gothenburg: The SOM Institute).

SOU 2017:79 Finansiering av public service – för ökad stabilitet, legitimitet och stärkt oberoende (http://www.regeringen.se/4a9767/contentassets/c557ad42ef7245daa0b9f60a8fe54769/finansiering-av-public-service–for-okad-stabilitet-legitimitet-och-starkt-oberoende-sou-201779).
Switzerland
Public- and private-sector media corporations are free from government influence. This is enshrined in the Swiss constitution. Although the federal government chooses the chairperson and some board members of the quasi-public non-profit radio and television organization, it exercises no influence over the organization’s daily reporting or journalistic work.
9
Denmark
Press freedom is protected by section 77 of the Danish constitution, with certain restrictions concerning libel, blasphemy and racism. Denmark’s radio and privately run TV2 are governed by independent boards appointed by the minister of culture, the parliament (Folketinget) and employees. No members of parliament are allowed to be board members and legislation endeavors to assure that programs are impartial and diverse. There have been a few incidents in which board members have tried to influence specific programs or decisions taken by the management board of Denmark’s Radio. State-run media are financed by an annual license fee. The government has announced that TV2 will be fully privatized, Denmark Radio will face budget cuts and the financing mechanism (e.g., general taxation or license fee as presently) is being reviewed.

Private media, especially newspapers, used to have party affiliations, but such affiliations have lessened in recent years. The print media is VAT exempt and gets other forms of government support. Freedom House describes private media in Denmark as “vibrant.” In Freedom of the Press 2017, Denmark ranked joint 4 out of 199 countries, behind Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden, and equal with Belgium and Finland. Following a Danish newspaper’s publication of a cartoon depiction of Islamic prophet Muhammad in 2005, Denmark was for several years ranked lower. Further, a 2015 incident in which an assailant of Palestinian origin shot and killed two civilians led to fears of self-censorship in the media.
Citations:
Reporters Without Borders, “Press Freedom Index 2017,” https://rsf.org/en/ranking_table (Accessed 16 October 2017).

Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret 3: Menneskerettigheder. Copenhagen: Christian Ejlers’ Forlag, 2007.
Ireland
In Ireland, public and private media are independent of government. RTÉ, the state-owned broadcasting company, is supported by fees from a mandatory license. It is obliged to give balanced coverage of political events and to guarantee access to a variety of political views. Access by political parties for electioneering purposes must also be balanced. The state broadcaster faces competition from private TV and radio stations and does not enjoy a monopoly in any area.

The Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) was established on 1 October 2009. It has to “ensure that the democratic values enshrined in the constitution, especially those relating to rightful liberty of expression, are upheld, and to provide for open and pluralistic broadcasting services.” All broadcasters are legally obliged to report news in an objective and impartial manner, without any expression of the broadcaster’s own views.

All newspapers (whether they be “Irish owned” or “Irish editions of British newspapers”) are privately owned and dependent on commercial revenue; none receive public funding.

The Press Council of Ireland and the Office of the Press Ombudsman were established on 1 January 2008. Through it citizens have access to an independent press complaints mechanism that aims to be “quick, fair and free” and to “defend the freedom of the press and the freedom of the public to be informed.”

Press and government keep one another at arm’s length. Preferences and biases arising from the views of journalists and broadcasters undoubtedly exist in editorial matters, but there is sufficient variety of editorial opinion and adequate complaints procedures to prevent this from undermining the democratic process.

Controversy has surrounded the issue of the right of a newspaper to protect its sources, for example by destroying relevant documents. The European Court of Human Rights ruled that The Irish Times had to pay its own costs in a case on this issue filed against it by the state. The court commented that the costs ruling could have “no impact on public-interest journalists who vehemently protect their sources yet recognize and respect the rule of law.”
Citations:
Kevin Rafter (2018), ‘The Media and Politics,’ in Politics in the Republic of Ireland (6th edition, Routledge).
Lithuania
Lithuania’s media are not subject to government influence, and their independence is respected by the incumbent government. Private newspapers and independent broadcasters express a wide variety of views and freely criticize the government. In Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 Press Freedom Index, Lithuania was ranked 36 out of 180 countries for press freedom, a fall of five positions compared to 2014. Despite this generally satisfactory situation, court decisions and prosecutors’ orders are sometimes a threat to media independence. The courts ruled that Lithuanian intelligence services had acted illegally in 2013 and 2014 by tapping the phones of journalists from the Baltic News Services. In addition, media independence could be compromised as the government remains a key advertiser, and that a large proportion of media outlets are owned by a small number of domestic and foreign companies. Similarly, regional media is dependent on local government for advertising and other types of support, which might restrict their ability to criticize local government.

With the aim of combating hostile propaganda and disinformation, the Lithuanian authorities introduced modifications to the Public Information Law that impose a penalty of up to 3% of a broadcaster’s annual income for spreading information that is deemed war propaganda, encouragement to change the country’s constitutional order, or an encroachment on the country’s sovereignty. This national-security decision restricted the broadcasts and rebroadcasts of some Russian TV channels in Lithuania. In March 2015, the Vilnius Regional Administrative Court issued a three-month ban on broadcasts by two Russian television channels that violated Lithuanian broadcasting regulations. The European Commission backed the Lithuanian authorities.
Citations:
2016 WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX, see https://rsf.org/en/lithuania
2015 WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX, see https://index.rsf.org/#!/index-details
New Zealand
Freedom of the media is regulated by the Broadcasting Standards Authority. In addition, it is safeguarded by the New Zealand Press Council, an independent organization that hears complaints from consumers and publishes annual reports. There is an ongoing discussion whether the current situation adequately deals with new media as well as traditional media outlets. In 2011, the New Zealand Law Commission proposed to establish a new independent regulator (the News Media Standards Authority) that would replace the current dual public-private regulatory regime. By January 2018, this recommendation had yet to be adopted by the government.
In 2015, the Office of the Ombudsman undertook a “quality-assurance” review of the Official Information Act (OIA). It confirmed that there had been a number of complaints regarding delays in the government’s response to applications for information under the provisions of the OIA, as well as regarding the incompleteness of the information provided.
An extensive article on the state of democracy in New Zealand, published in June 2017 by the New Zealand Herald, addressed issues such as government agencies thwarting the Official Information Act, tendencies within the government to skirt accountability, and government secrecy regarding its relationship with Israel.
Citations:
Annual Report of the New Zealand Press Council 2014 (Wellington: New Zealand Press Council 2014).
https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2016/ (accessed October 24, 2016).
https://rsf.org/en/new-zealand (accessed October 24, 2016).
Edwards, Bryce, 2017. Political Roundup: Let’s make government more democratic. The New Zealand Herald. 20 June 2017.
Search and Surveillance Act 2012 (Wellington: The Government of New Zealand 2012).
The News Media Meets ‘New Media’: Rights, Responsibilities and Regulation in the Digital Age (Wellington: Law Commission 2011).
Online Media Standards Authority, http://www.omsa.co.nz/ (last accessed October 24, 2016).
Norway
Norway’s dominant TV and radio corporation is state-owned, but the media market is also populated by significant private TV and radio stations. Newspapers are entirely in private hands, but receive state support. The state-owned broadcaster (NRK) is organized in a way that ensures considerable autonomy. The NRK is independent in its editorial policy, and the government does not intervene in the organization’s daily practices or editorial decisions. However, since NRK is a non-commercial actor, it is largely financed by a fee that is compulsory for all citizens who have a television. The amount of the fee is set by parliament. The head of NRK reports to a board of directors. Board members are appointed by the government. An institution called the Broadcasting Council (Kringkastingsrådet) plays an oversight role, monitoring, debating and expressing views about the management and activities of the state-funded broadcast media. It can also provide advice on administrative and economic issues. The issues debated by the council can originate with the chairman of the state broadcasting organization or from the public (often in the form of criticism and complaints). The opinions expressed by the Kringkastingsrådet carry substantial weight, and recommendations from this council are usually implemented. Eight council members are appointed by the parliament, and an additional six by the government.

Newspapers are free from any government interference. The freedom of the press is explicitly guaranteed in the constitution; the constitutional article addressing press freedoms was amended and strengthened with a constitutional amendment in 2004.

Increased numbers of competing digital publications and other changes in the media world have burdened many of the media houses. Some major media houses have experimented with new combinations of marketing and journalism that might in the long run undermine consumers’ faith in the independence of journalism. New technology is rapidly changing the media landscape, drawing audiences away from TV and newspapers to digital media. Social media platforms such as Facebook and Google increasingly draw advertisement revenues away from traditional media in Norway and elsewhere. Concerns about the long-term impact of this shift have increased. In addition, there are pressures to reduce state aid to media (pressestøtte). In sum, these factors might over time undermine the quality of the media and reduce its capability to engage in high-quality reporting.
 
The incumbent government largely respects the independence of media. However, there are occasional attempts to exert influence.
8
Belgium
Some of the main public television and radio stations are managed by representatives of the main political parties; the head of the main French-speaking public-media organization actually is appointed by the government and claims an official post comparable to that of a civil servant. Nevertheless, the media organization’s journalists work largely free from direct control or political influence, even if some reporting may at times be a bit too uncritical of the government position.

The country’s main private television and radio stations in general operate independently of political parties, even though some interpersonal connections exist at the levels of upper management. Privately held press organizations are largely independent, and they do their best to scrutinize public activities despite increasing financial pressures.
Canada
The only publicly owned media organization in Canada at the national level is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC), which runs radio and television stations. Its independence from government control is ensured by statute. However, this independence has limits. For example, it is unlikely that Radio-Canada, the French-language division of the CBC, would be permitted to advocate the breakup of the country. Privately owned media organizations can of course take any political position they wish. In theory, if a government does not like the viewpoint of a particular media outlet, it can use the retraction of government advertising as a punishment. This is seldom done by the federal government or provincial governments, but is more common on the part of municipal governments. Electronic media are subject to licensing requirements, but this regulation is performed by an independent body, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC), without overt political influence. The federal government does appoint the members of the CRTC, as well as the head of the CBC.
Citations:
CBC/Radio-Canada, Ottawa. Press Release February 2017, CBC/Radio-Canada shares its Accountability Plan, http://www.cbc.radio-canada.ca/en/media-centre/2017/02/01/
Chile
In general, the rules and practice of media supervision guarantee sufficient independence for public media. Privately owned media organizations are subject to licensing and regulatory regimes that ensure independence from the government. During the last two years, the Freedom House index evaluated Chile´s freedom of press as “free” whereas in 2015 it was still evaluated as “partly free.” The report’s authors argued that the level of violence and harassment faced by journalist covering protests had significantly decreased in recent years. The index takes into account “the legal environment in which media operate, political influences on reporting and access to information, and economic pressures on content and the dissemination of news.” The latest Press Freedom Index 2017, published by the international NGO Reporters Without Borders, ranked Chile 33rd, a dropping two places compared to the previous year. Nonetheless, covering demonstrations still remains difficult. Given Chile’s media landscape and its ideological and economic concentration, the degree of government influence over the media depends largely on which coalition is leading the government and clearly limits democratic debate.
Citations:
Freedom House Index (freedom of the press):
https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/freedom-press-2017

Reporters without borders press freedom index:
https://rsf.org/en/chile
Germany
Germany’s Basic Law guarantees freedom of expression, press and broadcasting (Art. 5 sec. 1) and prohibits censorship, with exceptions delineated by the standards of mutual respect, personal dignity and the protection of young people. Strong constitutional guarantees and an independent judiciary provide for strong media freedoms. A new anti-whistleblower provision in the German criminal code (§202d StGB) penalizes the handling of leaked data if the motive for leaking data is either to enrich oneself or to damage someone. Although certain professions like media representatives are excluded, critics still argue that protection for investigative journalists and their sources is inadequate. The recently reformed law governing the work of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency (BND) allows for the surveillance of foreign journalists. While defenders of the reform point to the need to include this group in comprehensive intelligence operations (e.g., in countries with a state-controlled press), critics argue that this legalizes potential infringements on media freedoms rather than preventing them.

Print media, which are largely self-regulated, are broadly independent of political interference. The German Press Council is tasked with protecting press freedom. However, the latent economic crisis of newspapers and publishing houses may slowly but steadily undermine media pluralism. In the World Press Freedom Index of 2017, Germany ranked 16 out of 180 countries, a slight decline from rank 12 in 2015.

The Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting and Telemedia (Rundfunkstaatsvertrag) provides a general nationwide framework for the operation of public and private broadcast media. In the private broadcasting sector, governmental influence is limited to the general provisions, regulations and guidelines stated in the interstate treaty that ban discrimination or other abuses. While the relationship between public authorities and private media can be seen as unproblematic, one can observe dependencies between authorities and the public media organizations (ARD and ZDF) that are at least questionable.
Citations:
World Press Freedom Index 2017. Available online: https://rsf.org/en/ranking
Luxembourg
The country’s media audience is small; the pluralistic media landscape is maintained mostly through generous direct and indirect press subsidies, of which the two big newspapers in Luxembourg mainly profit. One could argue that subsidies are an indirect way of influencing media coverage, however, the government strongly respects the independence of the media. The rules for granting subsidies are transparent and not subject of political debate. Moreover, following the reformation of the Electronic Media Act in 2013, the new government decided to allocate a greater part of its press subsidies to online media.

Following the European Court of Justice’s condemnation of Luxembourg related to Contacto’s (a weekly Portuguese language newspaper) investigative journalism in 2009, the country returned to fourth place in the 2012 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders. However, the tax avoidance scandal which brought Luxembourg into the international news, was felt even within the realm of the free media. As result of the government’s decision to charge journalist Edouard Perrin with complicity in leaking of confidential PricewaterhouseCoopers documents (LuxLeaks) and the resulting negative impact this action had on press freedom, Luxembourg dropped to rank 15 out of 180 countries in the 2016 and 2017 World Press Freedom Index. In comparison, between 2012 and 2014, the Grand Duchy was still in 4th place (2015: 19th).
Citations:
Beffort, Bérengère. “”Der Whistleblower ist (…) kein politischer Aktivist.”” Le portal de l’actualité gouvermentale, 6 July 2015, www.gouvernement.lu/5026791/06-braz-wort. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.


“Le journaliste au coeur de Luxleaks.“ Luxemburger Wort, 23. Nov. 2017,
www.wort.lu/de/business/portrait-le-journaliste-au-coeur-de-luxleaks-5a159fe5c1097cee25b77aef. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“The Press Freedom Index 2017.,” Reporters Without Borders 2017. www.rsf.org/en/luxembourg. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“Luxemburg und die Pressefreiheit.” Luxemburger Wort, 24 Apr. 2015, www.wort.lu/de/politik/reaktionen-auf-journalistenanklage-luxemburg-und-die-pressefreiheit-553a13610c88b46a8ce57f96. Accessed 21 Feb. 2017.

“Mémorial A n° 241 de 2010.” Journal officiel du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, 24 Dec. 2010, legilux.public.lu/eli/etat/leg/memorial/2010/241. Accessed 7 Mar. 2017.
UK
In the United Kingdom, television channels both in the public and the private sector are required by law to be politically neutral. The public regulator, Ofcom, oversees the sector. No such requirement exists for print media. The BBC, the main public-service broadcaster, is financed by a television license fee, which is effectively a poll tax. It is overseen by a board of governors and enjoys almost complete political independence. However, recent scandals may have weakened the BBC’s standing, although there is as yet little evidence of that in its behavior, and it remains the case that TV and radio journalists often subject government and opposition politicians to very tough interviews. Politicians of all persuasions frequently accuse the BBC of bias, arguably highlighting the fact that it is outside political control. The aftermath of the News of the World scandal in 2011 (which led to the Leveson Inquiry and its 2013 report) exposed the overly close relations between politicians and the press. After a lively debate on whether stricter press regulation should be adopted to prevent excessively intrusive journalism, a new consensus seemed to emerge that formal regulation should not be introduced and the government has proved to be uneasy about acceding to demands for tougher statutory regulation.

Security reasons are sometimes given for restricting press freedom and, as in the case of government attempts to clamp down on disclosures by Edward Snowden, tend to cause considerable political and public backlash. Such incidents can tarnish the relationship between the UK media and the government. The journalists’ resistance to intimidation and their reporting of government surveillance practices are a shining example for civil journalism. Several media actors have expressed concerns about the libel laws in the aftermath of the 2013 Defamation Act, which was meant to protect freedom of speech.
7
Australia
Media organizations – both public and private – are largely independent from government, although the main public broadcaster is accountable to a board of directors appointed by the government. Censorship is mainly restricted to material of a violent or sexual nature. There are, however, several potentially significant threats to media independence. For one, regulation of ownership of media is politicized and some owners are regarded as favorable to the incumbent government. Also, the Anti-Terrorism Act 2005 allows for control orders to restrict freedom of speech by individuals and the freedom of the media to publish their views. The National Security Legislation Amendment Bill passed in 2014 also restricts the ability of journalists to report on secret intelligence operations, with up to 10 years in jail imposed for exposing errors made by security agencies. Journalists argue that if whistleblowers are punished, journalism will be hurt. The implications of these two pieces of legislation for media freedom have not yet been tested in court.
Citations:
http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/media/call-to-scrap-security-laws-that-could-jail-journos/news-story/0b7b4d888751c0b11dc093ccb11c07bd

http://www.pressfreedom.org.au/press-media-alliance-freedom-report/introduction/foreword

https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2015/australia

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-12-14/china-backlash-australia-questions-of-political-interference/9258462
Austria
Media freedom is guaranteed by the constitution. There is no censorship in Austria, and new electronic or print-media organizations can be freely established. Limits to the freedom of expression in the media are defined by law, and the courts ensure that these limits are enforced.

The federal and regional governments use public money to promote specific policies in various print publications. This tradition has been criticized by the Austrian Court of Audit and by media organizations, but has not stopped. Due to the pluralistic structure of Austria’s political system (no single party has ever simultaneously controlled the federal government and all state governments), the impact of this practice is typically diffused, but this financial relationship necessarily reduces the credibility and the freedom of the media. A mutual dependence has developed, in which political parties try to influence the media and media try to influence political parties. A clear separation needs to be established, in which media organizations do less to start or support political campaigns or otherwise put pressure on politicians, and political parties do not use means such as financial incentives to have an impact within the media.

The Austrian Public Broadcasting (Österreichischer Rundfunk Fernsehen, ORF) company dominates both the TV and radio markets. The ORF is independent by law and is required to submit comprehensive reports on its operations. All parties in parliament are represented on the ORF’s oversight body (the Stiftungsrat). A number of (real or imagined) cases of political influence over the ORF by various political parties have been alleged. However, the ORF in general fulfills its mandate quite well, particularly in international comparison.

There is an imbalance between the ORF and TV and radio stations beyond the ORF. The ORF is financed mainly by public fees, which everyone who owns a TV or radio device has to pay. Other TV and radio broadcasters have to finance their structures and activities through advertisements. The ORF and the government justify this imbalance by referring to the ORF’s specific educational task, which private companies do not have to fulfill.

The impact of social media has not yet been fully analyzed in Austria. It can be seen as a counterweight to the highly concentrated traditional media market, in which a single daily newspaper (Die Krone) is read by more than one-third of newspaper consumers, and in which the ORF is still the dominant force in TV and radio. Social media use is highly skewed toward the younger generations, but are also responsible for a new means of access to information.

One particular aspect of new social media has been under discussion recently: how to deal with hate speech. Anonymous radical online postings, which violate the law and have been more or less under control in the traditional media, have widened the discourse. During the two most recent electoral campaigns on the federal level (the 2016 election of the Federal President and the 2017 election of the National Council), another impact of the new social media became visible (and discussed): the possibility to influence electoral behavior by disseminating lies about rival candidates. In the traditional media, the instruments to fight such lies is clear, as there are people responsible for a newspaper or a broadcasting company. However, accountability in social media is not so clear. The debate in Austria concerning this rather new phenomenon and its consequences for the fairness of the political process will become more intense.

Given Austria’s small size and its shared language with Germany, the country is particularly dependent on German media (print and electronic), which is not subject to oversight by Austrian policymakers.
Citations:
Ingrid Thurnher: “Politik und Medien - eine unheilige Allianz?” In: Andreas Khol et al. (eds.): “Österreichisches Jahrbuch für Politik 2011.” Vienna 2012, pp. 339 - 348.
Cyprus
In general, the media do not suffer from direct governmental interference. Legal requirements for starting a publication are minimal. Provisions in the Press Law (Law 145/1989) for the establishment of a Press Council and a Press Authority have been inoperative since 1990. In 1997, media owners, publishers and the Union of Journalists collectively signed a code of journalistic ethics, entrusting its enforcement to a complaints commission composed mostly of media professionals. Reporters Without Borders ranked Cyprus at 30th place out of 180 states in 2016 without further details.

RIK, the public-service broadcaster, is a public-law entity governed by a council appointed by the Council of Ministers. Appointments to its government body are often politically motivated and include party officials. Budgetary pressures imposed by the government and political parties, along with public statements and interferences by parties for “more equitable” access remain diachronic phenomena. Despite this competition for influence, pluralism generally prevails.

A different law, incorporating the provisions of EU media directives, governs private audiovisual media services. Oversight is carried out by the Cyprus Radio Television Authority (CRTA), which also oversees RIK’s compliance with its public-service remit. The CRTA has extensive powers and a broadly independent status. No high-level party official can be a member or chairperson of the authority’s governing board, but appointments of its members by the Council of Ministers are often politically motivated rather than based on competence.

Overt criticism of the media by government officials remains a rare phenomenon.

At a different level, the Attorney General’s constitutional powers to seize newspapers or printed matter constitutes a threat to the freedom of expression.
Citations:
1. Media Pluralism Monitor, Cyprus, 2016, http://cmpf.eui.eu/media-pluralism-monitor/mpm-2016-results/cyprus/
2. Reporters without borders, Cyprus https://rsf.org/en/cyprus
France
In principle, media independence is guaranteed by a complete set of constitutional, legislative and administrative rules. There is not much more that can be done to improve the legal status of the press. This said, media independence is multifaceted. One must distinguish between public and private media, and separate legal independence from financial dependence or influence. Public authorities have in principle no direct capacity to intervene in public media decision-making as the power of control and supervision is delegated to an independent media authority. However, the situation is not clear-cut for many reasons. Public media are mostly dependent upon a special tax paid by every television owner, while their access to the advertising market was strongly curtailed by the former Sarkozy government. Most funding is now under government control.

In the private sector, public influence can be felt through the generous subsidies paid to all daily and weekly newspapers. However, it is paid as a kind of entitlement based on general rules and principles, and as such does not provide any real political leverage to the government. Much more serious is the porosity between the world of media and the world of politics, as well as the fact that most newspapers are owned by large business interests.
Iceland
Until privatization in 1986, the state had a monopoly over radio and TV broadcasting. Private stations now have a significant role in the media market. There were nine private TV stations in 2008, 11 in 2011, and all but one offered national coverage. There is only one state-run TV station. In 2004, Freedom House stated that Iceland had an “exceptionally open and free media environment.” Public funding for state-run Radio and TV (RÚV) was cut by ISK 173 million for 2016. In the five-year financial plan for 2017-2022, presented in the summer 2017, increased funding for RÚV was announced.

Owners of private media sometimes try to exercise influence over news coverage. The largest daily newspaper has faced accusations that its owners, a former business magnate and his wife, have unduly influenced content. Meanwhile, Iceland’s second largest daily newspaper is partly owned by fishing magnates and partly by financial investors. Its chief editor is a former Icelandic prime minister and discredited governor of Iceland’s central bank. The newspaper regularly publishes content critical of fisheries policy reforms as well as Iceland’s application for EU membership. Some politicians in government have repeatedly accused state-run radio and TV of bias against the government in their news reporting. However, despite criticism that Iceland lacks a strong, independent media, the position of those seeking to dominate the media has been considerably weakened by the advent of online social media platforms.

A recent example of reduced media freedoms occurred in October 2017, two weeks before the parliamentary elections. The Reykjavík Sheriff’s Department decided to issue a gag order on the newspaper Stundin, banning the newspaper from covering leaked documents that outlined questionable and problematic financial transactions involving the prime minister, Bjarni Benediktsson, the chairman of the Independence Party. The gag order and the questions raised by the coverage of Stundin had reignited a debate about the corrosive effects of money in politics and the value of a free press. OSCE expressed concern about the gag order, which bars Stundin and its partners at investigative journalism outfit Reykjavík Media, from any further reporting on leaked documents from Glitnir bank. The case will be heard in a district court in early 2018.
Citations:
Karlsson, Ragnar (2010): Íslenskur fjölmiðlamarkaður. Framboð, fjölbreytni, samkeppni og samþjöppun. (The Icelandic Media Market. Supply, diversity, competition and concern). An overview prepared for the Ministry of Education and Culture.
Statistics Iceland (Hagstofa Íslands) www.statice.is
Italy
While in the past both center-right and center-left governments had exerted a significant or even a strong influence on public media, starting with the Monti cabinet governments have taken a more detached position. The public media organization, Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI), had previously been steered by government and parties in both its personnel policies and the control of its organizational frameworks and resources. After the Monti government nominated as heads of RAI new, fairly independent personalities who have ensured an enhanced political neutrality of the public media, cabinet interference has declined.

The Renzi government’s reform of RAI has increased the powers of the CEO while reducing the powers of the board, which has typically comprised representatives of the main political parties. This has reduced the direct influence of political parties over the RAI, but could increase government influence – unless the selection process for the RAI’s president and CEO are independent. Funding of RAI is more than sufficient.

While the privately owned Mediaset channels continue to be subject to the strong political influence of their owner, Berlusconi the increasing importance of other channels has helped balance things out.

As for the print media, newspapers and magazines are in general much more independent of government influence and able to ensure a broad spectrum of opinions.

The role of other digital and social media (e.g., Twitter and Facebook) is growing rapidly as a generation of younger politicians makes increasingly heavy use of them. But television still maintains its central role for a large part of the Italian public, which often is not reached by new media.
Portugal
Public and private media are independent of the government’s influence, as mandated by the constitution of 1976. The media are regulated by the Entidade Reguladora da Comunicação Social (ERC). Four of the five members of the ERC board are appointed by a qualified majority of two-thirds of parliament, and the fifth member – who normally becomes the ERC’s head – is selected by the other four members.
Spain
After 2012, when the government in power during the review period passed a decree reducing the autonomy of the Radiotelevisión Española (RTVE), the public broadcasting group lost some of its political neutrality. However, it would be unfair to regard the national television station as a simple government tool, as in the period prior to the early 2000s, when manipulation was almost systemic. The Radio Nacional de España (RNE), the main national public radio station, has also been criticized for a loss of impartiality and credibility. However, the situation has changed under the new multiparty scenario. All parties (including the PP) agreed to appoint the next RTVE president on a consensus basis following the 2016 elections. The debate on the new president of RTVE, however, was one major domestic issue during 2017 which was not resolved.

The situation with regard to regional public-broadcast groups is probably worse, with incumbent governments openly promoting their partisan political objectives. This has long been the case in Andalusia and in Madrid but is also observable in other regions such as Catalonia, where the public broadcasting corporation used to be far more pluralistic. However, since 2012, it has openly supported the pro-secession views of the nationalist regional government.

With regard to private broadcasting operations, media groups are of course formally independent, but the parties in office (at both the national and regional levels) have traditionally sought to support those newspapers, radio and television stations ideologically closest to them (through regulation of the audiovisual sector or with generous subsidies). However, some important private television networks have actively promoted the emergence of Podemos, the new anti-establishment party, through the provision of very considerable airtime (see “Media Access”).
Citations:
September 2017, RTVE.es: “El Congreso da luz verde a la nueva Ley de RTVE con el acuerdo de PSOE, Podemos y Ciudadanos.”
http://www.rtve.es/n oticias/20170921/congreso-da-luz-ve rde-nueva-ley-rtve-acuerdo-psoe-pod emos-ciudadanos/1621280.shtml
Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2016 report.
Netherlands
The freedoms of the press/media and of expression are formally guaranteed by the constitution (Article 7). The Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2017 ranked the Netherlands 5 out of 180 countries, below Norway, Sweden, Finland, and Denmark. The somewhat lower score (compared to previous years) is due to legislative initiatives to expand the Intelligence and Security Act, which threatens journalists’ rights to protect their sources. Additionally, Dutch journalists continue to practice “self-censorship” on sensitive issues such as immigration and religion, but not on the royal family.

Public-broadcast programming is produced by a variety of organizations, some reflecting political and/or religious denominations, others representing interest groups. These independent organizations get allocated TV and radio time that is relative to their membership numbers. However, broadcasting corporations are required to comply with government regulations laid down in the new Media Law. This new law abolished the monopoly of the incumbent public-broadcasting corporations and aims to boost competition by giving access to program providers from outside the official broadcasting corporations. A directing (not just coordinating) National Public Broadcasting Organization (NPO) was established, with a two-member government-nominated supervisory board, which tests and allocates broadcasting time. The new law states that public broadcasting should concern information, culture and education, while pure entertainment should be left to private broadcasters. In practice this leads to controversy around television celebrities’ salaries in public broadcasting, and blurred boundaries between “information” and “infotainment.” The bill has been criticized for its lack of budgetary considerations. Broadcasting is both privately funded through advertisements and publicly funded, with budget cuts for struggling regional broadcasters who will need to collaborate to survive. Critics have argued that younger people and non-Dutch population groups will no longer be served by the public broadcasters.

The problem in all this is that “public” media have become increasingly indistinguishable from the private media; moreover, traditional or conventional media have become increasingly less important due to market shifts and increasing internationalization. People under the age of 32 consume (paper) media at ever-shrinking rates, while their use of YouTube channels rises quickly. International media enterprises increasingly follow multichannel strategies. Although media policy still formally distinguishes between the written press and broadcasting organizations, this distinction appears outmoded.
Citations:
“Dit verandert er door de nieuwe mediawet,” Business Insider Nederland, 15 March 2016

Boekmanstichting, “Mediawet aangenomen in Tweede Kamer” (boekman.nl, consulted 26 October 2015)

Mediawet aangenomen door Eerste Kamer, 15 March 2016 (rijksoverheid.nl, consulted 8 November 2016)

Freedom of the Press 2017, Dutch Country Report, Freedom House
USA
The United States has long upheld an unusually rigorous version of media freedom, based on the language of the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. In general, government interference in the media sector has been nearly nonexistent. News organizations are rarely subject to damage suits, even for clearly false accusations against government officials. Because judicial precedents virtually prohibit “prior restraint,” they are rarely enjoined from publishing information – even if a source illegally provided it. The United States does not have a national “shield law” protecting the confidentiality of journalists’ sources (and barring punishment for a journalist’s refusal to reveal them), but most states offer such protection.

Recent developments have placed journalists under new pressure. Conflicts have occurred between press freedom and national-security and counterterrorism efforts – including government surveillance of journalists and attempts to compel reporters to reveal the sources of leaked information.

Both in his presidential campaign and as president, Trump has threatened news organizations in various ways for critical coverage, which he dismisses as “fake news.” He has demanded (unsuccessfully) that critical reporters be fired, threatened antitrust action against the owner of the Washington Post (though no such action has been taken) and suggested that a major television network might be denied its broadcast license (even though over-the-air TV stations, not networks, have licenses). He has also excluded reporters he regarded as unfriendly from campaign events or White House press briefings. By late 2017, there have been no apparent cases of substantial punishment or censorship of news organizations, but the president’s lack of deference for press freedom has been widely regarded as dangerous.
6
Czech Rep.
The Czech Republic has traditionally been characterized by a high degree of media freedom, partly because of the independence of public media but also because prevalent foreign ownership did not exercise any visible influence over the content and coverage of private media. In recent years, media freedom has been threatened by ownership transfers from foreign to Czech owners. The main concerns are found in print media. The main player on the Czech media market, the owner of MAFRA and Radio Impulse, Andrej Babiš, has used his media power to strengthen his political power. This was confirmed in May 2017 by five secret recordings leaked on Twitter by an anonymous account (the “Julius Šuman Group,” named after the former officer of the communist secret police who had handled the alleged informer Babiš before 1989). In these recordings, Babiš is heard discussing means to use the media to compromise political opponents, including the prime minister and several non-ANO ministers. The recordings, the authenticity of which was denied by Babiš, played a major role in Babiš’s removal from the cabinet at the end of May.

Jirák, J., B. Köpplová (2018): Vorzüge und Probleme eines liberal-demokratischen Medienmodells: Medien und Politik in der Tschechischen Republik, in: A. Lorenz, H. Formánková (Hrsg.), Das politische System Tschechiens. Wiesbaden: Springer VS, 245-265.
Israel
Israel’s media environment is considered lively and pluralistic. Freedom of the press is generally respected, and neither the government nor the military abuse their power in order to restrict information. Israelis have wide access to free and largely uncensored internet, and the internet penetration rate reached a high level of 78.9% in 2017. Even though the country’s basic laws do not offer direct protection, and censorship agreements accord the military wide discretion over issues of national security, legal protections for the press are robust. The Supreme Court has ruled that freedom of expression is an essential component of human dignity and has continuously defended it, thus providing for the assimilation of this principle within the Israeli political culture.

In Freedom House’s most recent Freedom of the Press rating, the media in Israel was rated as “partly free” (33 out of 100 points). The 2017 World Press Freedom Index also ranked Israel quite low, at 91st place out of 180 countries. These poor evaluations are mainly because of the economic threat to other newspapers presented by the freely distributed Israel Hayom, along with its close ties to Prime Minister Netanyahu. Another reason was the prime minister’s decision to keep the Ministry of Communication under his authority, a decision that was later overturned by the Supreme Court in light of the investigations against him.

As part of an ongoing increase in public awareness about matters of government transparency, the level of public interest in issues concerning media ownership and politicization has grown in recent years. Several reports have exposed the media market’s ownership structures, identifying issues of cross-ownership, crony capitalism and centralization while pointing out the influence such issues have on coverage of political and economic issues.

The law additionally gives immense power to a military censor. Under a 1996 Censorship Agreement between the media and the military, the censor has the power – on the grounds of national security – to penalize, shut down, or stop the printing of a newspaper, or to confiscate its printing machines. In practice, however, journalists often evade restrictions by leaking a story to a foreign outlet and then republishing. Nevertheless, since the beginning of 2016, the military censor has toughened its policies regarding the supervision of content in newspapers, blogs and other social-media channels. Journalists are subject often accused of inciting violence, cooperating with terrorist organizations, or otherwise posing a threat to Israel’s security. Moreover, some bloggers have claimed that the censor has ordered them to pre-submit every text regarding security issues for approval. These practices are another main reason for the country’s low ratings on media-freedom surveys.

Other affairs from recent years additionally seem to have undermined aspects of media independence. In 2016, the Knesset passed a controversial amendment to the Knesset Channel Broadcasting Law that prohibited degrading the Knesset as an institution on the official Knesset-broadcast channel. The law was perceived as attempt to limit the independence of the channel. In 2017, the right-leaning Channel 20 won the rights to broadcast Knesset TV. Critics claimed that Channel 20’s right-wing ideology was the reason it won the tender (for the next 10 years), replacing Channel 2. The Supreme Court suspended the agreement after ruling that the tender process had contained irregularities. Another problem is the rise in libel litigation against journalists, sometimes perceived as so-called strategic lawsuits against public participation (SLAPP). Prime Minister Netanyahu himself has initiated several such suits against journalists, which were criticized as efforts to threaten press freedom.

In 2017, the Israel Broadcasting Authority (“Rashut Hashidor”) was shut down and replaced by a new body, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (Taagid Hashdiur, IPBC). The decision was intended to guarantee the independence of the new body, and was made after many years of political debate and delay. The older authority was said to be expensive and outdated. However, numerous delays to the launch of the new authority were proposed. They were mostly perceived as attempts to limit the new body’s independence. Culture Minister Miri Regev was once cited as asking, “It’s inconceivable that we’ll establish a corporation that we won’t control. What’s the point?” Although Prime Minister Netanyahu sought to close the new corporation, the IPBC eventually started broadcasting on 15 May 2017.
Citations:
Cashman, Greer F., Knesset Approves Amendment to Public Broadcasting Law, The Jerusalem Post, 5.8.2016: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Knesset-approves-amendment-to-Public-Broadcasting-Law-463308

Caspi, Dan, “Media and politics in Israel,” Van Lear and the Kibutz Hameuhad, 2007 (Hebrew).

“Freedom of the Press: Israel 2017,” Freedom House, 2017 https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2017/israel

“2017 WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX,” Reporters without Borders,
https://rsf.org/en/israel

Grosman, Nurit, “Freedom of Press in Israel 2016: Overview” in Rafi Mann and Azi Lev-On (eds.), Annual Report: The Israeli Media in 2016 (54-76), New Media, Society and Politics Research Institute, Ariel University, 2016 (Hebrew): http://newsite.aunmedia.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05/2016_P5.pdf

Harkov, Lahav, “Knesset Passes Law that Free Media Market,” The Jerusalem Post, 30.05.2017: http://www.jpost.com/Israel-News/Knesset-passes-laws-that-free-media-market-494283

Hizki, Baruch, “The Disgrace Article in the Knesset broadcast Law will be Canceled,” Arutz Sheva, 19.6.2016 (Hebrew): https://www.inn.co.il/News/News.aspx/324322

“Israeli Media Is Another Example of Crony Capitalism,” Haaretz 2.11.2015: http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/1.683677

“Israel Freedom of the Press Country Report 2016,” Freedom House website: https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2016/israel (English)

“Map of Media Ownership of the Israeli Media“, The seventh eye website: 2.12.2014: http://www.the7eye.org.il/50534 (Hebrew)

Persiko, Oren. “Control Through Prevision,” The seventh eye website, 4.10.16 (Hebrew) http://www.the7eye.org.il/191753

Ravid, Barak. “Miri Regev: Why Set Up New Broadcasting Corporation if We Don’t Control It? read more: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.734527,” Haaretz, 31.07.2016: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.734527

Ravid, Barak and Chaim Levinson, “Netanyahu Appoints Ayoub Kara as Communications Minister,” Haaretz, 28.05.2017: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.792289

Staff, Toi, “Court blocks right-wing station from producing Knesset Channel,” The Times of Israel, 20.7.2017: https://www.timesofisrael.com/court-blocks-right-wing-station-from-producing-knesset-channel/

Tucker, Nati. “Found Guilty of Libel for Facebook Post About Netanyahu, Crowdfunding Campaign Helps Cover Journalist’s Costs,” Haaretz, 20.6.2017 : https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/1.796804

Tucker, Nati, “’Israel Hayom’ and marketing content cased a deteriorate in ranking of media freedom in Israel,” 27.04.2016 (English): http://www.haaretz.co.il/news/education/.premium-1.2928144

Tucker, Nati and Teig, Amir, “Israel Broadcasting Authority to Be Shut Down and Replaced,” Haaretz, 06.03.2014, https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/business/.premium-1.578372
Latvia
Private media are generally free from direct government influence. Licensing and regulatory regimes are politically neutral and do not create a risk of inappropriate political interference. However, the opaque ownership structure of private media and the media working environment does enable actors associated with government to have an influence over editorial decisions. Research shows that media editors agree with the opinion that editorial policy is biased, because of the commercial interests of owners or prominent clients, or for political reasons. In 2011, a leaked chain of e-mails between the mayor of Riga and a Russian-language broadcaster showed the mayor to be engaged in daily editorial decisions affecting the news desk. In 2017, leaked transcripts of conversations between Latvia’s three “oligarchs” document political influence in the major daily newspaper “Diena” and in public television. These conversations observed that public radio remains impervious to outside political influence.

Public broadcasting has been subject to political influence. The oversight body, the National Broadcasting Council (Nacionālā elektronisko plašsaziņas līdzekļu padome, NEPLP), is politically appointed, and this has had an impact on personnel choices and in some cases content. In 2015, the parliament dismissed the chairperson of the NEPLP. This unprecedented move was considered by some to violate the measures built into the Law on Public Broadcasting meant to safeguard the independence of the public-broadcasting system. The parliamentary decision was successfully challenged in the courts and the dismissed council member was reinstated. However, he is no longer chairperson of the council. In 2017, the Supreme Court rejected his appeal. Since then, a new council has been appointed. This new council has been criticized for violating the independence of public broadcasting after making swift, poorly substantiated changes in the leadership of public radio.

Independent local print media is under increasing competitive pressures from local government-owned media outlets. The latter not only offer a low, subsidized purchase price to readers, but also a low advertising rate, pulling advertising revenue away from independent publications. A local independent media outlet has successfully contested in the courts the legitimacy of local government-owned publications taking paid advertisements.

Overall, two trends are obvious. First, 2017 saw Latvia’s media outlets compete for €480,000 in government funding aimed at promoting quality journalism. As the income of media outlets continues to fall, even private media will be ever more reliant on government funding. Second, Latvia’s print media is in a downward spiral of falling readership and income. There were only six national newspapers in 2017, compared to fifteen 20 years ago. At the same time, the numbers of people reading only online media (such as Delfi) is rising and this will shake-up Latvia’s media market.
Citations:
Rožukalne, A. (2010), Research Paper on Hidden Advertising Issues in the Media, Available at (in Latvian): http://politika.lv/article_files/2117/original/slepta_reklama_mediju_prakse.pdf?1343212009, Last assessed: 20.05.2013
Malta
Private media operates free from government interference. Mechanisms exist to ensure that state media operate independently from government interference; since 2014, we have witnessed further progress on this issue. The prime minister appoints all the directors of the State Media Board, as well as all the members of its editorial board. Journalists do often display a clear party preference, which sometimes undermines media independence. Since the general election on 9 March 2013, the government has allowed for a greater diversity of program producers on state broadcasters. Even though state activities dominate the media, existing media diversity and a recent increase in competition ensures that the system is essentially pluralist and a range of opinions remain available. The 2016 World Press Freedom Index placed Malta 46th, two points higher than in the previous year. However, a number of surveys show that public trust in the media ranks among the lowest in the EU. In a 2016 European Commission report on media pluralism, 76% of respondents stated that the media provides a diversity of views and opinions, but only 28% thought that the media provided information free from political or commercial pressure. In the same survey, 44% believed that the media provided trustworthy information, with the lowest scores assigned to newspapers and social media. Also, only 39% viewed the national regulator as free and independent.

In 2016, Malta reformed its vilification laws to allow for greater freedom from prosecution. Prior to this reform, Malta overhauled its censorship laws, allowing for near zero control on the media and the arts. Journalists continue to claim that existing draconian libel laws undermine their work. Malta’s press laws are, however, being overhauled. Proposed reforms include the removal of criminal libel and the restriction on defamation of the president, a cap on libel damages (including a clause stating that courts needs to take into account the impact that financial damages may have on a media outlet), and voluntary registration of media outlets. The OSCE welcomed recent changes made to the proposed legislation, but offered additional recommendations, including that a more balanced approach is needed with regard to the defense of truth.
Citations:
Journalists’ institute calls for reform of libel laws. Times of Malta 18/07/2015
Cabinet mulls brave new defamation law. Malta Today 11/11/2015
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20161001/local/institute-of-maltese-journalists-calls-for-decriminalization-of-libel.626631
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160713/local/justice-minister.618702
http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20160714/local/repealing-blasphemy-law-a-victory-for-freedom-of-speech-says-humanist.618859
https://rsf.org/en/ranking
Standard Eurobarometre 84 Autumn 2015
Malta Today 29/11/17 OSCE analysis of Malta’s upcoming media law
Legal analysis of the draft law of the Republic of Malta to provide for the updating of the regulation of media and defamation matters and for matters consequential or ancilliary thereto, Commissioned by the office of the OSCE Representative on freedom of the media from Dr. Joan Barata November 2017
Draft law of the Republic of Malta to provide for the updating of the regulation of media and defamation matters and for matters consequential or ancilliary thereto 2017
Special Eurobarometer 452.Media Pluralism and Democracy November 2017
World press freedom index of reporters without borers 2016
Slovenia
Slovenia’s constitution and legal system guarantee freedom of the press, and the media, for the most part ,operate without direct political interference. The laws regulating public television and radio broadcasting reflect the strong corporatist element of Slovenian political culture. The Council of Radio-Television of Slovenia (Radiotelevizija Slovenija, RTVS) has 29 members, who are appointed by the National Assembly, but proposed by a broad variety of political and social actors. Changes to the rules and procedures in the previous years strengthened the independence of the public media by reducing the scope for discretionary cuts in public funding, and by requiring an absolute rather than relative majority for the election of the director-general of the Council of Radio-Television of Slovenia. An amendment of Article 260 of the Slovenian Criminal Code, which entered into force on October 2015, strengthened media freedom by making clear that an individual disclosing classified information no longer incurs a criminal liability. During the period under review, however, there have been cases of government-led and other political pressures on journalists when covering politically sensitive issues like the planned investment by Magna or the September referendum on the new rail track, leading to incidents of self-censorship and biased reporting. Another problem is that a lot of local newspapers and publications are owned and funded by the municipalities and exploited by mayors for political purposes.
South Korea
In the Reporters Without Borders’ 2017 Press Freedom Index, South Korea was ranked 63rd, climbing seven places from 2016. South Korea also remains on the list of “countries under surveillance” in the category of internet censorship. Defamation suits are frequently filed as a means of preventing critical reporting.

Under the Park Geun-hye government, government interference with the press was common. Since the president appoints the head of the public Korean Broadcasting Service (KBS) and indirectly the leadership of the also-public Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation (MBC), the Blue House was able to exert its influence both with regard to internal management and media coverage. In August 2017, KBS and MBC union members initiated a simultaneous strike, demanding the resignation of leaders appointed under the old government. The protest escalated after it was found that the media companies had created blacklists of journalists based on the contents of their news reporting and had subjected those on the list to disadvantages.

However, the coverage of the impeachment scandal and the public protests demonstrated that the media is able to freely report if public support and interest in an issue is overwhelming. Some media companies such as JTBC even played a crucial role in investigating the corruption scandals related to the Park administration. The freedom of the press is expected to improve further under the Moon government.
Citations:
Korea Times. “KBS MBC to begin strike on Monday.” August 30, 2017. http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/nation/2017/08/371_235664.html
Reporters without Borders, Report South Korea, https://rsf.org/en/south-korea
Freedom House, Freedom of the Press Report 2013, http://www.freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2013/south-korea
Freedom of the Press 2017, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/2017/south-korea
“Voldemort for KBS? The way to cover the allegations on the Mir Foundation without mentioning Choi Soon-sil,” Media Today, September 26, 2016. (in Korean)
http://www.mediatoday.co.kr/?mod=news&act=articleView&idxno=132309&sc_code=&page=2&total=58
“ The end of medias causing King’s wrath,” Media Today, October 2, 2016. (in Korean) http://www.mediatoday.co.kr/?mod=news&act=articleView&idxno=132442
 
The incumbent government seeks to ensure its political objectives indirectly by influencing the personnel policies, organizational framework or financial resources of public media, and/or the licensing regime/ market access for private media.
5
Greece
The financial crisis, and the continuing decline in circulation and advertising has strained Greece’s media sector. Numerous media outlets have shut down, reduced staff and salaries, scaled down or eliminated news departments, or failed to pay wages. These developments have made media outlets more susceptible to government influence.

After closing down the national public broadcaster, ERT, in June 2013, the coalition government of New Democracy and PASOK (in power between November 2011 and December 2014), passed legislation in May 2014 to establish a new national public broadcaster (this time named NERIT). The reestablishment of ERT and the re-hiring of all its employees (who had been dismissed in June 2013) was a major item in the pre-electoral agenda of the Syriza party. In April 2015, the Syriza government passed a law abolishing NERIT and reinstituting ERT. It can be argued that this rectified the previous situation. ERT started operating again in June 2015.

However, particularly in the period under review, the ERT TV channels have clearly adopted a pro-government bias across all news programming. With a few exceptions, news presenters toe the government line on almost all issues, while invited commentators often follow a solid government line. This trend is disquieting in view of the government’s attempt to control the private TV sector, although this attempt was finally aborted between September and December 2016. Moreover, in the first months of 2017, the Syriza-ANEL coalition government attempted but failed to control DOL, one of the country’s oldest and largest press groups, by allowing a former Syriza member of parliament to temporarily take over DOL’s management. As a result of the mistreatment of ERT by the pro-austerity parties, and the recent, very intense meddling by the Syriza-ANEL coalition in TV and press groups, Greece ranked 88 out of 180 countries in the 2017 World Press Freedom Index.
Citations:
Τhe law abolishing ERT and establishing the new public broadcaster, NERIT, i.e. law 4173/2013, was voted in July 2013.
The law abolishing NERIT and re-establishing ERT, i.e., law 4324/2015, was voted in April 2015.
The information on Greece’s ranking on the Word Press Freedom index is available at https://rsf.org/en/ranking#
Slovakia
Under the third Fico government, political pressure on the media increased. Prime Minister Fico and Speaker of Parliament Andrej Danko, the head of the SNS, continued to criticize journalists. The situation between the prime minister and the media was strained as Fico refused to answer questions from particular newspapers and launched verbal attacks against the media during his press conferences. Fico and Danko harshly attacked the public broadcaster RTVS, reproaching it for being opposition-oriented. In June 2017, parliament denied Václav Mika, the incumbent director of RTVS, a second mandate and replaced him with Jaroslav Rezník. A director of the Slovak Radio Broadcasting in the late 1990s and former chair of Slovak Press Agency (TASR), Rezník has been criticized by opposition parties (SAS and OĽaNO), NGOs and media professionals for his servility toward those in power, and his responsibility for the controversial cooperation of TASR with the Russian agency Sputnik, which is known as a Kremlin’s propaganda instrument.
Citations:
N.N. (2017): Politics and businesses endanger the freedom of media, in: Slovak Spectator, June 27, 2017 (https://spectator.sme.sk/c/20568685/politics-and-businesses-endanger-the-freedom-of-media.html).


Terenzani, M. (2017): Is new RTVS director a threat to media freedom? in: Slovak Spectator, June 20, 2017 (https://spectator.sme.sk/c/20563948/is-new-rtvs-director-a-threat-to-media-freedom.html).
4
Bulgaria
In legal terms, media in Bulgaria are independent of the government. All electronic media – public or private – are subject to licensing by two independent state agencies: the Council for Electronic Media (issuing programming licenses) and the Commission for Regulation of Communications (for radio frequencies and other technological aspects of electronic media). The Council for Electronic Media also appoints the management of the Bulgarian National Television and the Bulgarian National Radio organizations. No specific regulation exists for print media.

In practice, however, the independence of the media in Bulgaria is limited. Many media organizations depend heavily on advertising and other revenues from the government or from government-owned enterprises and/or have owners involved in business deals with the government. The financial dependence of various media on the government budget has increased in recent years. Transparency regarding the ultimate ownership of private media organizations is very low, increasing the opportunities for and the suspicions regarding illicit use of media to further hidden political and business agendas.

While the media landscape in Bulgaria remains diverse and positions expressed in the media cover the full political spectrum, the end of 2017 saw several people in power make direct threaten media figures. For example, one member of parliament who was a candidate for the directorship of a government agency (Anton Todorov) and one deputy prime minister from the nationalist coalition (Valeri Simeonov) threatened a journalist from Nova TV (Viktor Nikolaev), stating that Nikolaev’s job may be at risk if he continues to question the procurement of new military airplanes. This caused a public scandal and ultimately cost Todoriv his seat in parliament, but Simeonov remains in his position even after publicly demanding that all media covering the scandal apologize to him.

Media independence continues to be compromised by a lack of ownership transparency and the low degree of editorial independence at pro-government media outlets, rather than by the harassment (legal or physical) or suppression of opposition outlets.

A major development in this space has been the growth of non-traditional media. On the one hand, non-traditional media are much more difficult to suppress by the powerful of the day. On the other hand, they are more susceptible to specific manipulations.
Citations:
Smilova, R., D. Smilov, G. Ganev (2012): Democracy and the Media in Bulgaria: Who Represents the People? in: E. Psychogiopoulou (ed.), Understanding Media Policies. A European Perspective. Basingstoke/ London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 37-54.
Croatia
Media freedom in Croatia is limited. Political influence on the media is still fairly strong, as is the influence of private media owners. After the change in the governing coalition in May 2017, the HDZ intensified its control over the public media. In some cases, controversial journalists have been fired and critical programs discontinued. Interviews with the prime ministers and other cabinet members have become less confrontational. The government has weakened independent media by delaying the allocation of EU funding for non-profit media. It has so far failed to adopt the new media strategy announced by Minister of Culture Nina Obuljen Koržinek at the end of 2016. Nor has it repealed Croatia’s controversial 2012 shaming law.
Citations:
South East Europe Media Organization (SEEMO) (2018): Press Freedom in Croatia: Hate Speech and Hope for Change. Vienna (http://seemo.org/assets/pdf/Croatia-Report-final%203152018.pdf).
Japan
Japanese media are largely free to report the news without significant official interference. While the courts have ruled on a few cases dealing with perceived censorship, there is no formal government mechanism that infringes on the independence of the media. The NHK, the major public broadcasting service, has long enjoyed substantial freedom. However, the Abe-led government has pursued a more heavy-handed approach since 2013, highlighted by a number of controversial appointments of conservatives to senior management and supervisory positions.

In practice, many media actors are hesitant to take a strong stance against the government or expose political scandals. Membership in government-associated journalist clubs has long offered exclusive contacts. Fearful of losing this advantage, representatives of the established media have frequently avoided adversarial positions.

As a result of the passage of the State Secrets Act, which came into effect in 2014, journalists and others charged with leaking relevant information now face jail sentences of up to five years. What exactly constitutes “state secrets” is left very much up to the discretion of the government agencies in question.

In recent years, Japan’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index has plummeted from 22nd place in 2013 to 72nd place in 2017. This is now the lowest rank among the G-7.

In a 2017 report to the United Nations Human Rights Council, a UN Special Rapporteur strongly criticized Japan for eroding media freedoms and stifling public debate on sensitive public issues. In a similarly strong response, the Japanese ambassador to the United Nations accused the report of inaccuracies.

In line with such accusations, former disaster reconstruction minister Masahiro Imamura broke off a press conference in April 2017 after unwelcome questions about the treatment of Fukushima evacuees, yelling at a freelance journalist. After another gaffe, the minister resigned from his post.
Citations:
Hiroko Nakata, Japan stays 72nd on press freedom list but falls to last in G-7, The Japan Times, 27 April 2017, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2017/04/27/national/japan-stays-72nd-world-press-freedom-list-last-g-7/

Justin McCurry, Japan accused of eroding press freedom by UN special rapporteur, The Guardian, 13 June 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/jun/13/japan-accused-of-eroding-press-freedom-by-un-special-rapporteur

Griseldis Kirsch, Controlling the Media in Japan, 11 July 2016, Ballots & Bullets, School of Politics & IR, University of Nottingham, http://nottspolitics.org/2016/07/11/controlling-the-media-in-japan/
Mexico
Officially, freedom of expression is protected and the media is independent from the government. Nevertheless, in practice, substantial restrictions exist on what news outlets can cover without fear of reprisal. Topics such as corruption or collusion between organized crime and public officials are particularly dangerous territory. According to data from the Committee to Protect Journalists, Mexico is one of the most deadly places for journalists, surpassed only by Iraq and Syria with regard to the number of journalists murdered. In 2017, a record number of journalists were murdered, making Mexico the deadliest country for journalists not experiencing a civil war. Journalists are routinely harassed and kidnapped. These dangers particularly affect journalists working for subnational news outlets as well as those who report critically on corruption and linkages between politicians and organized crime. The federal government fails to act decisively to protect journalists. Thus, even though press freedom is codified in national laws, in practice there are substantial restrictions on what journalists and news outlets can report on. When journalists are murdered, there is broad impunity for their killers. Again in 2017, the murders of prominent journalists and media workers like Javier Valdez Cárdenas, Miroslava Breach Velducea and Gumaro Pérez Aguilando were particularly horrifying, all the more since the last two were gunned down in front of their children.

Through lavish spending on advertisement, the government exerts influence over the tone and type of coverage by news outlets. While it is difficult to know the true extent of biased coverage, there is concrete evidence that investigative stories about collusion and corruption are buried, and journalists and outlets pay a high price for publishing such pieces. Carmen Aristegui, a prominent journalist, lost her radio show after reporting critically on a corruption scandal involving the wife of President Peña Nieto. Her website, Aristegui Noticias, which is one of the remaining outlets for critical stories, has been attacked by hackers. Moreover, critical journalists such as Aristegui have been tracked using surveillance technology, such as “Pegasus” spyware, which had been sold to the Mexican government. Thus, although the media are formally independent, considerable obstacles exist for the effective exercise of press freedom.
Citations:
New York Times (10 July 2017) “Spyware in Mexico Targeted Investigators Seeking Students.”

Guardian (19 Dec 2017) “Mexican journalist shot dead at son’s school Christmas pageant.”

New York Times (29 April 2017) “In Mexico, ‘It’s Easy to Kill a Journalist’.”

New York Times (21 Dec 2017) “Most Lethal to Journalists: 1. War Zones 2. Mexico.”
3
Poland
The Polish government no longer respects the independence of the media. The Council of National Media was established in June 2016, and appoints the management boards of public TV and radio, and the Polish Press Agency (PAP). The council is dominated by the PiS and takes instructions directly from Jarosław Kaczyński. The National Broadcasting Board (KRRiT), a constitutional body overseeing electronic media, has been staffed exclusively with PiS personnel. Cases of politically motivated appointments and dismissals at TVP, Poland’s public TV broadcaster and the public Polskie Radio are numerous. According to estimates, at least 225 journalists either lost their jobs or stepped down from their positions for political reasons in 2016. In response to the takeover of the public media by the PiS government, up to a million previous viewers have declined to watch the main news program of TVP (now often dubbed TV-PiS). The other two major TV channels, TVN and POLSAT, as well as part of the print media, have sought to counter the biased message of the (once) public TV. This may become more difficult in the future as the government plans to reduce the share of foreign companies or institutions to 15-20%, a regulation that would especially affect TVN. In fall 2017, the National Broadcasting Board imposed a fine on TVN because of allegedly unfair and partisan coverage of the protest that took place in the Polish parliament in December 2016. The fine amounted to PLN 1.5 million, but was ultimately dropped when the U.S. government protested strongly. In December 2016, the governing PiS party attempted to limit reporters’ access to lawmakers inside the parliament, but ultimately gave up the idea due to resistance from the opposition and public.
Citations:
Chapman, A. (2017): Pluralism Under Attack: The Assault on Press Freedom in Poland. Washington, D.C.: Freedom House (https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FH_Poland_Report_Final_2017.pdf)
Romania
In Romania, the independence of the media is limited. The government can exert strong control over the public media, and private media owners often chose to become obedient and to serve powerful politicians in exchange for favors. The decision to abolish the existing TV-radio fee and to have the public media financed directly out of the central government budget, hidden in a list of popular tax cuts, has raised fears about a further increase in the political control of the public media. So have the governing coalition’s plans to ease the possibility of dismissing the head of the national press agency Agerpress. Amendments adopted by the Senate to the Law on the Romanian Television Company and to the Law on the Romanian Radio Company were challenged by the National Liberal Party (PNL) in a notification presented to the Constitutional Court of Romania (CCR), stating that reforms threaten the viability and autonomy of the two public services. The PNL have alleged that the legislative proposal (Law no263/2016) adopted in June 2017 involved significant changes compared to the content that was debated and adopted by the Deputies’ Chamber, thus constituting a breach in the principle of bicameralism. The challenges are currently before the court but are symptomatic of the continued politicization of media in the country.

Active Watch (2017): Media Freedom in Romania 2015-2016. Bucharest (http://www.activewatch.ro/en/freeex/publications/freeex-report-annual-press-freedom-in-romania-2015-2016/).
 
Major media outlets are frequently influenced by the incumbent government promoting its partisan political objectives. To ensure pro-government media reporting, governmental actors exert direct political pressure and violate existing rules of media regulation or change them to benefit their interests.
2
Hungary
In Hungary, media freedom exists only on paper, since more than 90% of media are controlled by the government, either directly, as in the case of the public media, or indirectly, as in the case of private media owned by Fidesz oligarchs. The second Orbán government pushed through highly controversial media laws in 2010/11. These laws have effectively involved a “media capture” by the state since they have strengthened government control over the media by vesting a Media Council (staffed entirely by Fidesz associates) with media-content oversight powers and the right to grant broadcasting licenses. Since then, media freedom has been further restricted by the takeover of formerly independent media by oligarchs close to Fidesz, supported through the strategic allocation of government advertisements. After the acquisition of the last four remaining independent regional newspapers in July 2017, Fidesz oligarchs now control all regional dailies, which still have a large readership, and almost all local radio stations. While Lajos Simicska, an enigmatic oligarch that fell out with Orbán and and now supports Jobbik, still controls some media and while there are some minor independent print and other media, the internet has become the central forum for public discourse and information. However, the internet does not reach the society as a whole, as public TV and radio did until the government maximized its influence on them. Moreover, society is vulnerable to disinformation campaigns and fake news. In recent years, the Hungarian media has been penetrated by around 100 locally operated, Russia-linked disinformation sites which have supported the Fidesz agenda.
Citations:
Szicherle, P., V. Wessenauer (2017): A Média és a politika új viszonya Magyarországon (The new relationship of media and politics in Hungary). Budapest: Political Capital/ Friedrich-Ebert-Foundation (http://www.politicalcapital.hu/pc-admin/source/documents/FES_PC_A_media_es_a_politika_uj_kapcsolata%20_171004.pdf),

Győri, L., P. Krekó, J. Jakub, B. Weidinger (2017): Does Russia interfere in Czech, Austrian and Hungarian elections? Budapest: Political Capital (http://www.politicalcapital.hu/pc-admin/source/documents/western_experiences_eastern_vulnerabilities_20171012.pdf).
1
Turkey
Although Turkey has a somewhat diversified media structure, the government places direct and indirect pressure on media owners in order to obtain coverage favorable to the government party. Most critical private media groups have been seized or turned into politically friendly trustees. The oligopolistic and pro-government ownership of media outlets, and self-censorship are the main factors undermining media freedoms.

The constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press and freedom of expression are rarely upheld in practice. The current legal framework and practice are restrictive and do not meet EU standards. The government appoints the general director of the country’s public broadcaster, Turkish Radio and Television (TRT). In doing so, it essentially exercises tutelage over the public-media organization’s administration. Several TRT channels regularly broadcast pro-government programs, and invite experts allied with the government party to appear on these programs.

Most concerning for many observers have been the unprecedented expansion in the range of reasons given for journalists’ arrests, the massive phone-tapping campaign and the contempt shown for source confidentiality. These factors have in sum reintroduced a climate of intimidation with regard to the media.

Media freedom deteriorated dramatically in the aftermath of the July 2016 failed coup attempt. The Venice Commission reported that the use of state of emergency powers had violated media freedom. The Association of Contemporary Journalists reported that in the year following the state of emergency declaration on 20 July 2016, 318 members of the press were detained, 103 members of the press were arrested, 18 journalists were attacked, one journalist died, two online news sites were banned and 25 online news sites were suspended. Furthermore, a total of 147 media outlets were closed down, 1,404 members of the press were dismissed, and 32 parliamentary access cards and 624 yellow press cards were withdrawn. Thus, media pluralism was limited to a handful of low-circulation publications. Several foreign journalists were also detained or deported. Turkey ranked 155 out of 180 countries in the World Press Freedom Index 2017.

Particularly, the aftermath of the 15 July coup attempt saw high numbers of arrests, hearings, detentions, prosecutions, censorship cases and layoffs. A number of physical attacks on media outlets and journalists took place. The closure of media outlets, the appointment of trustees to control media groups, and the active use of the tax authority, the financial crimes unit and courts against critical media intensified.

Intimidating statements by politicians and lawsuits launched against journalists critical of the government, combined with the media sector’s ownership structure, have led to widespread self-censorship by media owners and journalists. In some cases, journalists have simply been fired. The politicized Radio and TV Supreme Council (RTÜK) has issued disproportionate fines to pro-opposition media; however, after the 2015 parliamentary elections, the Supreme Election Board asked the RTÜK to issue fines to media companies that violated the election law.
Citations:
Venice Commission, “Turkey Government Memorandum on the Measures Taken Durıng the State of Emergency
Relevant to the Freedom of the Media,” 22 February 2017, http://www.venice.coe.int/webforms/documents/default.aspx?pdffile=CDL-REF(2017)010-e (accessed 1 November 2017)
European Commission, Turkey 2016 Report, Brussels, 9.11.2016, http://ec.europa.eu/enlargement/pdf/key_documents/2016/20161109_report_turkey.pdf (accessed 1 November 2016).
Reporters Without Borders, Turkey, https://rsf.org/en/turkey (accessed 1 November 2017)
Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2017, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/freedom-press-2017 (accessed 1 November 2017)
‘FETÖ’ Gerekçeli OHAL’de Neler Kapatıldı? http://www.cgd.org.tr/index.php?Did=1016 (accessed 1 November 2017)
Bianet, Media Monitoring Report April-May-June 2017, https://bianet.org/english/media/188342-301-journalists-face-4-260-years-in-prison-142-aggravated-lifetime (accessed 1 November 2017).
Aslı Tunç, “Media Ownership and Finances in Turkey Increasing Concentration and Clientelism” Accessed June 15, 2016. http://mediaobservatory.net/sites/default/files/Media%20Ownership%20and%20Finances%20in%20Turkey.pdf
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