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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 high on the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders for several years. In 2017, Estonia again ranked 12 out of 180 countries in the global ranking.
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 ranked first for the sixth consecutive year. Though Finland ranked third in 2017 and fourth in 2018, trailing behind Norway, Sweden and the Netherlands. Several factors have contributed to this 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. In December 2017, the home of a journalist was searched and material confiscated after she published an article concerning a Finnish military intelligence agency in the Helsingin Sanomat. In October 2018, a Helsinki Court of Appeal upheld a previous verdict stating that the police acted appropriately when carrying out the search.
Citations:
“Reporters without Borders, Finland”, https://rsf.org/en/finland
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) proposed that public service radio and television should henceforth be financed not via license fees but through a tax. This reform comes into effect in 2019.

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).

Andersson, Ulrika, Anders Carlander, Elina Lindgren, Maria Oskarson (eds.) (2018), Sprickor i fasaden (Gothenburg: The SOM Institute).

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
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. The federal government has put forward measures, including financial assistance, to support traditional media outlets that are struggling to survive the loss of advertising revenue to Google and Facebook.
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/
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 have so far been financed by an annual license fee. The government (a coalition between the Liberals, Conservatives and the Liberal Alliance party) reached an agreement in June 2018, which will cut the budget of Denmark’s Radio by 20% for the 2019 – 2023 period and gradually change the financing model from the license fee to tax-based funding. Emphasis is on public service: providing a diverse supply of Danish, trustworthy quality content, which supports Danish democracy, language and culture. At a time when immigration is a sensitive political issue, it is worth noting that the agreement also mentions Denmark’s Christian cultural heritage. Some of the provisions in the agreement are rather specific, leading some critics to suggest that politicians are interfering too much with a politically independent institution. The government has announced that TV2 will be fully privatized, although this is still on the agenda.

Private media, especially newspapers, used to have party affiliations, but such affiliations have lessened in recent years. The print media is VAT exempt and also receives other forms of government support. Freedom House describes private media in Denmark as “vibrant.” Though Denmark’s score has been affected by various events, such as a Danish newspaper’s publication of a cartoon depiction of the Islamic prophet Muhammad in 2005, which have reduced Denmark’s score in subsequent years. The murder of Swedish journalist Kim Wall by the inventor Peter Madsen in 2017 has also pulled Denmark’s score down.
Citations:
Reporters Without Borders, “Press Freedom Index 2018.” https://rsf.org/en/denmark (Accessed 24 September 2018).

Zahle, Dansk forfatningsret 3: Menneskerettigheder. Copenhagen: Christian Ejlers’ Forlag, 2007.

“Mediaaftale for 2019-2023,” https://kum.dk/fileadmin/KUM/Documents/Nyheder%20og%20Presse/Pressemeddelelser/2018/Medieaftale_2019-2023.pdf (Accessed 25 September 2018)
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. Private newspapers and independent broadcasters express a wide variety of views and freely criticize the government. Though the media’s independence is generally respected by the incumbent government, there have been a few recent attempts to restrict media freedom.

In Reporters Without Borders’ 2018 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. The parliament (Seimas) is alleged to have meddled in the operations of the public broadcasting service, Lithuanian Radio and Television, by setting up a special parliamentary inquiry commission to investigate the activities of the broadcaster. The commission found ineffective and opaque operations and suggested changes to the governance of the state-funded Lithuanian Radio and Television that could politicize appointments to its Council and a new Board whose establishment was proposed in the recommendations. The conclusions of the committee were not approved by the parliament during its plenary vote in November 2018; the parliamentary Committee of Culture was assigned to improve the content of the report. In September 2018, Lithuanian authorities discontinued the practice of providing free data from the Center of Registers for requests from journalists, but this decision was later reversed after reporters appealed to government officials. 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:
2018 WORLD PRESS FREEDOM INDEX, see https://rsf.org/en/lithuania
New Zealand
Freedom of the media is regulated by the Broadcasting Standards Authority. Both public and private media are independent from political parties and the government. Media freedom is also 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 recent years, there have been a number of scandals that led organizations such as Reporters Without Borders (RSF) to downgrade press freedom in New Zealand. However, in the most recent 2018 report, the country improved from 13th to 8th. While the media is mostly free from political pressure, economic factors such as concentrated media ownership are a constant danger for an independent and pluralistic media. In this regard, the decision of the Commerce Commission to reject the merger of the country’s two biggest media groups, NZME and Fairfax, was crucial. Journalists and media organizations are demanding amendments to the Official Information Act, which, in their opinion give government agencies undue leverage to respond to information requests. The new Labour-led government announced its willingness to improve protection for whistleblowers; so far, the government has not followed through with legislative initiatives.
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).
RSF 2018. 2018 World Press Freedom Index. https://rsf.org/en/new-zealand.
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 challenge 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. In addition, the media landscape is becoming more pluralistic and national media increasingly competes with international digital news sources.

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.
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 2018, published by the international NGO Reporters Without Borders, ranked Chile 38 out of 180 countries, a dropping five 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. The presidency of Piñera, a successful entrepreneur, is more market friendly, and closer to business and – consequently – media interests.
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 freedom. A new anti-whistleblower provision penalizes the handling of leaked data without ensuring adequate protection for investigative journalists as well as their sources. The recently reformed law governing the work of Germany’s foreign intelligence agency (BND) allows the surveillance of foreign journalists, thus legalizing potential infringements on media freedom rather than preventing them. Laws regulating access to information remain weak compared to other countries.

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 2018, Germany ranked 16th 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.
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 expressed concerns about the libel laws in the aftermath of the 2013 Defamation Act, which was meant to protect freedom of speech, but there have been no more recent cases in which the underlying freedom of the press has been questioned. However, a recent assessment by the Paris-based NGO Reporters without Borders (RSF) is critical of the UK record. As in many other countries, the unfettered freedoms of social media are being challenged.
Citations:
https://rsf.org/en/united-kingdom
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 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.

A comparatively high degree of freedom of information still exists, which is based on the constitution and the basic law (“Staatsgrundgesetz”). However, the government has accepted the necessity of dealing with the phenomenon of “social media.” On the government’s side, there have been attempts to deal with “hate speech,” for example, from Neo-Nazis. An especially sensitive issue is the independence of the ORF, Austria’s public broadcasting system, which is still the dominant media actor. The question concerns the extent to which the ORF’s possible future structure will reflect the special interests of the governing parties.
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. There is, however, a tendency for media to be indulgent with the government of the day, a phenomenon that is more visible with the present government. Legal requirements for launching a publication are minimal. Provisions in the Press Law 145/1989 for the establishment of a Press Council and Press Authority have been inoperative since 1990 due to disagreements among media professionals on their composition. Media owners, publishers, and the Union of Journalists collectively signed a code of journalistic ethics in 1997 and established a complaints commission composed mostly of media professionals. Reporters Without Borders ranked Cyprus in 25th place out of 180 states in its 2018 World Press Freedom Index.

RIK, the public-service broadcaster, is a public-law entity governed by a board appointed by the Council of Ministers. Appointments to this body are often politically motivated and include party officials. Budgetary pressures imposed by the government and political parties, along with interference and public statements by parties arguing for “more equitable” access continue to hold the public broadcaster hostage to politicians. 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 expertise or competence.

In September 2016, some appointees in government stepped down in the wake of comments made in the media that the recruitment of specific journalists at the presidential palace were aimed at winning the favor of political editors or media owners.

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. Journalists wives turn down president’s job offer, Cyprus Mail, 10 September 2018, https://cyprus-mail.com/2018/09/10/journalists-wives-turn-down-presidents-job-offer/
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 being 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 at the request of Glitnir Holdco to issue a gag order on the newspaper Stundin. The order banned the newspaper from reporting on leaked documents that outlined several dubious financial transactions involving the prime minister and chairman of the Independence Party, Bjarni Benediktsson. 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. The case was heard in Reykjavík District Court which, in February 2018, rejected the claims. Glitnir Holdco immediately appealed to the Country Court, a court of higher instance, which revoked the gag order. The court decision was not appealed to the Supreme Court. Even so, the courts upheld the gag order for more than a year. In comparison, the gag order against the New York Times in 1971 in connection with the publication of the Pentagon Papers was upheld for only 15 days.
Citations:
Karlsson, Ragnar (2010): Íslenskur fjölmiðlamrkaður. 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
Until recently, successive governments exercised political influence over the public broadcaster and largest media organization, Radiotelevisione Italiana (RAI). Governing parties interfered in its personnel policies, and controlled its organizational frameworks and resources. Some space was, however, always guaranteed to opposition parties. RAI has enjoyed abundant funding combining a mandatory subscription from every person that owns a TV set and advertising revenue.
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 RAI, but can result in increased government influence. The new Conte government seems to be willing to exert a strong influence over all nominations.

While the privately owned Mediaset channels continue to be subject to the political influence of their owner, Berlusconi, the increasing importance of other channels has balanced 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.
Luxembourg
The media is independent of the government, despite the subsidies they receive. Almost all newspapers and a number of online media receive subsidies. Without this funding, the pluralistic media landscape in Luxembourg would cease to exist.

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.

However, the Luxembourg Press Council says critical journalists sometimes have to fear “legal proceedings and intimidation.” Furthermore, Raphael Kies, University of Luxembourg, speaks of a “high risk of political influence” in Luxembourg, particularly in the print media. In terms of ownership transparency, Luxembourg’s media received a poor rating. According to the law, all press organs are obliged to publish once a year the names of their shareholders who hold more than 25% of total shares. By contrast, there are no statutory provisions against possible conflicts of interest between the media and politics. Thus, Raphael Kies criticizes a lack of real transparency.

In spring 2018, there was a debate about whether the public service broadcaster (“Radio 100.7”) in Luxembourg was independent. In a study of the “European Broadcasting Union,” the broadcaster’s independence was partially doubted. As a result, there is a risk that the government could influence the broadcaster’s reporting. The structure of the radio station therefore needs to be changed. A further public debate in Luxembourg followed in which the prime minister was criticized for appointing a confidant to an important position within the broadcaster. The prime minister replied that the appointed person would fulfill all necessary requirements for the office.
Citations:
Kies, Raphaël/Nommesch, Kim/ Schall, Céline: “Media Pluralism Monitor 2016 – Monitoring Risks for Media Pluralism in the EU and Beyond.” http://orbilu.uni.lu/bitstream/10993/31320/1/Luxembourg_EN-pdf-final.pdf. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.

Report “European Braodcasting Union,” Luxembourg: https://img.100komma7.lu/uploads/media/default/0001/85/2018-report-p2p-ersl-4web_1e3c47.pdf. Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.

Bumb, Christoph: “Parteien und Presse in Luxemburg – Der politisch-mediale Komplex.” https://www.reporter.lu/der-politisch-mediale-komplex/ Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.

“Zeit, sich zu wehren.” Tageblatt, 3 May 2018. http://www.tageblatt.lu/headlines/zeit-sich-zu-wehren/ Accessed 22 Oct. 2018.
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.
South Korea
Under the Moon administration, South Korea has shown significant improvement with regard to media freedom. Reporters without Borders ranked South Korea at 43rd place in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, representing a jump of 20 places from the previous year. However, some issues remain outstanding. For example, Reporters without Borders criticizes the system by which managers are appointed at public broadcasters. Furthermore, Korea has very problematic anti-defamation laws that punishes defamation (including true statements) with harsh prison terms if the statements are seen as not being in “the public interest.” Defamation suits are frequently filed as a means of preventing critical reporting. Reporting on North Korea remains censored by the National Security Law. All North Korean media are jammed, and North Korean websites are not accessible from South Korea. In general, internet censorship remains widespread, with “indecent internet sites” blocked. Consequently, Freedom House ranks South Korea among the countries in which the internet is only “partly free.” A potentially problematic new development is the government’s declaration of a “war against fake news,” with stricter legislation on the issue promised.
Citations:
Freedom on the Net 2018, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/2018/south-korea
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
Cho, Sang-hun. 2018. “South Korea Declares War on “Fake News,” Worrying Government Critics.” The New York Times, October 2. Retrieved October 13, 2018 (https://www.nytimes.com/2018/10/02/world/asia/south-korea-fake-news.html)
Spain
The public TV and radio network (RTVE) has been criticized for its lack of impartiality and credibility. However, under the new multiparty scenario following the 2016 elections, all parties (including the then-governing PP) agreed to appoint the next RTVE president on the basis of consensus. A legal change introduced in 2017 established an open and public competition for seats on the public media organization’s governing board and for its president, with the need for a two-thirds (rather than simple) parliamentary majority to approve these positions. However, after difficulties in selecting a new president, on 19 July 2018, the new Pedro Sánchez government proposed the appointment of a “sole administrator,” a provisional figure that would be granted powers to direct the public broadcasting group until the approval of a new president by public tender.

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, in Madrid and particularly in Catalonia, where the public media has openly supported the nationalist regional government’s pro-secession view, while limiting access for those holding opposing perspectives or pluralistic positions.

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 the newspapers, radio and television stations that are ideologically closest to them (through regulation of the audiovisual sector or with generous subsidies). In 2018, the parliament set up a working group to deal with the issue of “fake news.” Politicians, journalists, media owners and representatives from social-media platforms have been invited to contribute.
Citations:
Octuber 2017, the Guardian: “What Catalonia’s media dearly needs is neutral voices.”
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/oct/29/free-speech-catalonia-madrid-toxic-media

Freedom House(2018), Press 2017 report. - https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-press/freedom-press-2017
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 2018 ranked the Netherlands 3 out of 180 countries, only below Norway and Sweden. The somewhat higher ranking (but lower score, compared to previous years) is due to the fact that – in spite of legislative initiatives to expand the Intelligence and Security Act – journalists’ rights to protect their sources when called as witnesses in criminal cases was formally upheld. Additionally, Dutch journalists continue to practice “self-censorship” on sensitive issues such as immigration, race, Islam and “national character,” as a consequence of vicious abuse and online trolling, especially on social media.

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 2018, Dutch Country Report, Freedom House (rsf.org, accessed 24 October 2018)
USA
The United States has long upheld an unusually rigorous version of media freedom, based on the categorical language of the First Amendment to the constitution. In general, government interference in the media sector has been nearly nonexistent. News organizations are rarely subject to damage suits, even for false accusations against government officials. Because judicial precedents virtually prohibit “prior restraint,” they are rarely enjoined from publishing information – even if a source provided it illegally. The United States does not have a national “shield law,” barring punishment for a journalist’s refusal to reveal sources to law-enforcement officials, but most states offer such protection.

Recent developments, however, 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 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, nearly always falsely, as “fake news.” As of late 2018, there have been no apparent cases of substantial punishment or censorship of news organizations, but the president’s contempt for press freedom has been widely regarded as a significant threat.
6
Czechia
Czechia 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. The capture of much of the Czech media market by Andrej Babiš, and the use of that media power to support his political position and denigrate that of any alternatives, has further stimulated the development of online media, supported by subscription and crowdsourcing. Many established journalists including investigative and award-winning journalists left Babiš’s MAFRA group and other dailies to start online media and blended media (online and monthly print). This ensures the continuation of some degree of media independence, but the viability of such projects is contingent on the trust of the readers and viable business model (online adds, or strong backer). Following action by Transparency International, a court action was started against Babiš in November 2018 for conflict of interest by maintaining effective control over of his business, despite their nominal transfer to a trust.
Citations:
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. Israelis have wide access to free and largely uncensored internet and internet penetration rate marked a high 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, soundly assimilating this principle in the Israeli political culture.

According to the last Freedom House rating, the media in Israel is “Partly Free” (33 out of 100 points). According to the 2018 Reporters without Borders report, the Israeli media is free but constrained by military censorship, with Israel ranked 87 out of 179 countries. These poor evaluations are mainly because of the economic threat that the free newspaper Israel Hayom poses to the other newspapers, and its close ties with Prime Minister Netanyahu. Another reason was the decision of the prime minister to keep the Ministry of Communication under his authority, a decision that was later overturned by the Supreme Court of Israel in light of the investigations against him.

Furthermore, when examining the extent to which the media in Israel is independent, one should also notice the immense power for censorship that the law facilitates. 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, the censor’s role is quite limited, and journalists often evade restrictions by leaking a story to a foreign outlet and then republishing. Since the beginning of 2016, so-called military censorship policies have toughened regarding the supervision of content in newspapers, blogs and other social media channels. Some bloggers have claimed that they have been sent them a message ordering them to submit every text regarding security issues for approval. Another key factor for the current rating, is the “military censorship” journalists are subject to, with journalists often being accused of inciting violence, cooperating with terrorist organizations or otherwise posing a threat to Israel’s security.

Other recent affairs seem to call into question several important aspects of media independence. In 2018, the right-leaning Channel 20 won the rights to broadcast Knesset TV and a bill has been approved in the Knesset. Another example is the new “Facebook Law,” passed in July 2018, which is said to be more restrictive than equivalent laws in other countries. According to this new law, the Israeli authorities can, with a judge’s order, demand the removal of content that is defined as illegal, including terror, pornography and violence.

It is also important to mention that the Israel Broadcasting Authority (“Rashut Hashidor”) was shut down this year and replaced by a new body, the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation (Taagid Hashdiur, IPBC). The decision to replace the Israel Broadcasting Authority with the Israeli Public Broadcasting Corporation was intended to guarantee the independence of the new body, and followed years of political debate and delays. The former authority was said to be expensive and aging. However, there were several delays to the launch of the new authority. These delays were mostly perceived as attempts to limit the independence of the new body. Although Prime Minister Netanyahu worked to close the new corporation, the IPBC eventually started broadcasting on 15 May 2017. Ongoing criticism by politicians toward the corporation has been published, regarding the “waste” of public budget, specifically regarding preparations for the upcoming Eurovision 2019 event, planned to take place in Israel.
Citations:
Boker, Ran, “Ayub Kara: “There is no place for a public channel today,” Ynet, 17/10/17: https://www.ynet.co.il/articles/0,7340,L-5029715,00.html

Cashman, Greer F., Knesset Approves Amendment to Public Broadcasting Law, The Juerusalem 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 Leer and the Kibutz Hameuhad, 2007 (Hebrew).


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


“2018 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

Goichman, Refaela, “The world is fighting terror and pornography: with whom does the Israeli Facebook law fight?,” The Marker, 15/7/18: https://www.themarker.com/technation/.premium-1.6270707

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

“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

“The Knesset has approved: Channel 20 will broadcast news,” Mako, 20/2/18: https://www.mako.co.il/news-military/politics-q1_2018/Article-75d5d63acc1b161004.htm

“The Minister of Communications attacking the Corporate heads. Watch,”Srugim, 29/7/18:
https://www.srugim.co.il/269213-269213
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,” 27.04.16 (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, 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.

Two general trends seem 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.

Finally, Reporters without Borders highlighted that Latvia ranked 24 in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index. Latvia’s score has continued to worsen due to the spread of “fake news” from suspected Russian origins. Other problems for the media include economic difficulties, inadequate and poorly distributed state aid, lawsuits brought against several journalists, and legislation that does not favor the media or media sources.
Citations:
1. 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: 04.01.2019.

2. RSF (2018), World Press Freedom Index, Available at: https://rsf.org/en/ranking, Last assessed: 04.01.2019
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. While the prime minister appoints all the directors of the State Media Board, as well as all the members of its editorial board, complaints of bias against the state broadcaster have dwindled, and the opposition leader recently said that the broadcaster has been more open to discussion of the party’s complaints. In Malta, media independence more generally is influenced by who owns the media. Nearly all media in Malta are owned by individuals with a stake in or connection with a political party. Journalists in all media often display a clear party preference close to that of the media organization’s owner. This, rather than government interference, is the primary reason that Malta’s media suffers from a lack of public trust. Malta’s ranking in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index fell to 65th place. The report is also critical of local SLAPP laws, which may be used to muzzle the media. 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. The 2017 Media Monitor also ranked Malta as a medium-risk country with regard to political-independence indicators and regulatory safeguards. Although state and party-related activities dominate the media, the reality of media diversity and a recent increase in competition ensure that the system is essentially pluralist, and that a range of opinions remain available. However , given the difficulties associated with maintaining anonymity in public procurement tendering processes in a small society such as Malta, most Maltese administrations have proven reluctant to respond to media requests for information .


In 2016, Malta reformed its defamation 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. However, in 2018 the government removed the criminal libel section from Malta’s press laws, thereby removing the threat of a prison sentence. Other proposed reforms include the removal of 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 2018
 
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.

In the period under review, the public broadcaster’s (ERT TV) television channels adopted a clearly pro-government bias across all news programming. News presenters toe the government line on almost all issues, with invited commentators often following a solid government line. This trend was disquieting in view of the government’s attempt to also control the private television sector, though this attempt was finally aborted between September and December 2016. At the end of 2017, the government was preparing to hold new auctions for television licenses under the auspices of the independent National Council for Radio and Television. During the period under review, a major private television channel (Mega) ceased operations. As a consequence of very intense meddling by the Syriza-ANEL coalition in television and with the press, Greece was ranked 74 out of 180 countries in the 2018 World Press Freedom Index, on par with Hungary, Mauritania and Albania, though there is some improvement compared to the 2017 ranking (88/180).
Citations:
The information on Greece’s ranking on the Word Press Freedom index is available at https://rsf.org/fr/classement# (information available in French).
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. In the period under review, however, there have been some cases of political pressure on public media journalists covering sensitive issues, such as the Magna corporation investment in Maribor, killings after the Second World War or the second referendum on the new railway line in May 2018. Some private media outlets are owned by companies from other economic sectors (e.g., construction) and reporting sometimes seems to be biased toward the ruling coalition as a means of securing public sector procurement contracts. 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.
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 very limited. Many private 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. Transparency regarding the ultimate ownership of private media organizations is very low, allowing for illicit influence over editorial policy and the abuse of de facto monopolistic positions without the possibility of legally proving them. This is especially true in the area of print media. It is widely understood that more than 80% of the print media market is controlled by one person.

As a result, Bulgaria’s international ranking in media freedom continues to deteriorate. This is one of the reasons why there was a widespread international coverage of the murder of a regional TV personality in the fall of 2018. Viktoria Marinova had covered the work of investigative journalists on government-connected corruption. There have been serious rumors of possible political ulterior motives behind her murder. These allegations have not completely disappeared, despite the arrest and indictment of a perpetrator who confessed to raping and murdering the journalist.

A major development in the media space has been the growth of non-traditional outlets. 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 case that attracted the most attention in the period under review was the dismissal of the journalist Hrovje Zovko, the president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association (CJA) who had served as executive editor of HTV 4, one of the TV programs of HRT, Croatia’s national broadcaster, after he had criticized the government for interfering with the broadcaster’s independence. The government has weakened independent media by delaying the allocation of EU funding for non-profit media.
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 67th in 2018. This is the lowest rank among the G-7. During the reporting period, however, no major new scandal in this area emerged.
Citations:
Chisato Tanaka, Japan’s press freedom ranking risis in 2018 - due in part to deteriorating conditions elsewhere, The Japan Times, 25 April 2018, https://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2018/04/25/national/japans-press-freedom-ranking-rises-2018-due-part-deteriorating-conditions-elsewhere/

Daisuke Nakai, The Japanese Media in flux: Watchdog or Fake News?, Forum Report 013, Suntory Foundation, April 2018, download from https://www.suntory.com/sfnd/jgc/forum/013/index.html
Slovakia
The murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová in February 2019 has highlighted the limits to media freedom in Slovakia. Of concern is the fact that prominent representatives of the governing coalition, most notably Robert Fico, Smer leader and prime minister until March 2018, and Andrej Danko, head of the SNS and speaker of parliament, have shown a habit of criticizing and intimidating journalists. In addition, the increased politicization of the public radio and TV broadcaster RTVS since June 2017, when Jaroslav Rezník became its new director, has also raised concerns. The government also failed to deal with the threats to Kuciak by the politically well-connected businessman Marian Kočner, a major subject of Kuciak’s investigative work, and has only half-heartedly sought to clarify and investigate the murder. Fico himself downplayed the murder by consistently speaking of the “death of two people” rather than a murder of a journalist. He has continued his attacks on journalists after his resignation as prime minister. In November 2018, over 500 Slovak journalists denounced in a public statement his degrading and offensive statements about journalists.

The conflicts over the politicization of RTVS have intensified since the murder of Kuciak and Kušnírová. In April 2018, Rezník fired four reporters (out of 60) who signed a critical open letter to management. In May 2018, 12 RTVS reporters resigned in protest of the politicization of news coverage under Rezník’s leadership. These conflicts led to an unprecedented mobilization of journalists and the public that forced the RTVS top management to restore the investigative TV program Reportéri, which had been suspended in January 2018, and to rein in its intervention in political affairs. Petra Stano Maťašovská, the head of the RTVS radio news section, had to resign in October 2018 after she had formulated internal rules for RTVS journalists that showed a strong bias for the governing parties.
Citations:
Kalan, D. (2018): Press Freedom Is Still Under Attack in Slovakia, in: Foreign policy, August 8 (https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/08/06/press-freedom-is-still-under-attack-in-slovakia-rtvs-reznik-jan-kuciak-murder-fico-kocner/).

Reporter without borders (2018): Press freedom in Slovakia after investigative reporter’s murder, February 28 (https://rsf.org/en/news/press-freedom-slovakia-after-investigative-reporters-murder).

Školkay, A. (2018): Why Press Freedom in Slovakia is More Complicated Than it looks (Interview), in: World Politics Review, June 13 (https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/trend-lines/24874/why-press-freedom-in-slovakia-is-more-complicated-than-it-looks).
3
Mexico
Officially, freedom of expression is protected and the media is independent from the government. Through extensive spending on advertisement, the government exerts influence over the tone and type of coverage by news outlets. Broadcasting networks and newspapers depend on government advertising spending, the big television networks Televisa and Azteca receive around 10% of their advertisement revenue from the federal government. Newspapers depend as well on government spending on advertising. While it is difficult to know the true extent of biased coverage, there is concrete evidence that investigative stories about collusion and corruption are suppressed, and journalists and outlets pay a high price for publishing such pieces. Moreover, critical journalists have been tracked using surveillance technology, such as the “Pegasus” spyware, sold to and used by the Mexican government.
While media freedom is not severely restricted by the government, 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, more than 500 journalists have been attacked and 12 journalists were killed. In 2018, eight journalists were killed between January and October. Journalists are routinely harassed and kidnapped. Since 2000, 138 journalists have been killed, 24 have disappeared. 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. When journalists are murdered, there is broad impunity for their killers. Thus, even though press freedom is codified in national laws, in practice there are substantial restrictions on press freedom. Mexico ranked 147 out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index 2018.
Citations:
New York Times (10 July 2017) “Spyware in Mexico Targeted Investigators Seeking Students.”

Articulo 19: https://articulo19.org/periodistasasesinados/
Poland
The PiS government does not respect 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. Following pressure from abroad, most notably from the United States, the PiS government dropped its original plans to “re-polonize” the media by limiting the maximum foreign ownership stake allowed in Polish media companies to 15% – 20%.
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)

Wielinski, B. (2018): Polish government continues efforts to stifle free media, in: Euractiv, May 11 (https://www.euractiv.com/section/freedom-of-thought/news/polish-government-continues-efforts-to-stifle-free-media/).
Romania
In Romania, the independence of the media is limited. The government exerts strong control over the public media, as can be seen by the way the latter have covered anti-government protests. The 2017 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 further increased the political control of the public media. Most private media owners have ties to national and local politicians and serve them in exchange for favors. Many private media spread fake news, with the regulatory body doing almost nothing to discipline these outlets.
Citations:
Expert Forum (2018): Media Clientelism in Romania 2016-2018. Policy Brief No. 63, Bucharest (https://expertforum.ro/en/media-clientelism-in-romania-2016-2018/).

Gross, P. (2015): (Happily) Living in Sin: Media and Politics in Romania, in: Southeastern Europe 39(1): 12-34.
 
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 highly controversial media laws in 2010/11 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. Fidesz oligarchs now control all regional dailies, which still have a large readership, and almost all local radio stations. The situation with weeklies is not as bad, but their readership is limited to the elite of the country. 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.

Since the 2018 elections, Fidesz has completed its media capture through the liquidation of Simicska media. The government has also brought about radical changes in pro-government media, which includes a reorganization of media outlets that are close to or owned by Fidesz. This involves disciplining employees and bringing in new editors to outlets such as Kommentár (monthly) and Mandiner (online). There has been a big scandal surrounding Fidesz’s first and most prestigious media outlet, the monthly Századvég, which was launched in the late 1980s. Because the fall 2018 Issue of Századvég contained critical papers about the government’s economic policy, it was destroyed, and the editors dismissed. The government has also announced plans to merge all Fidesz papers into one company (Media Fundamentum) in order to exercise better control over them.
1
Turkey
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. Transparency and accountability of the board meetings of TRT, the state run audio-visual media, were eliminated by an amendment to the relevant regulation just before the early presidential and parliamentary election in April 2018.

The editors of Turkey’s leading media outlets were summoned to a meeting in January 2018 at which the prime minister gave them 15 “recommendations” on how to cover the military operations in a “patriotic” manner. The current legal framework and practice do not guarantee the exercise of freedom of expression in the media and internet. In March 2018, RTÜK was entitled to license, monitor and suspend Turkish media services operating from abroad. This was considered by OSCE Media Freedom representative a further limitation of media pluralism. Despite several limitations, traditional media brand as well as some digital-born brands operate freely, providing alternative perspectives.

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. 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 sale of the Doğan media outlet to Demirören media group, which has shown a pro-governmental business profile, reshuffled the outlet’s structure. Approximately 70 journalists, including directors, were removed from TV channels, forced to resign, or left because they could not work with the new administration. Journalists and media organizations critical of the government faced threats and physical attacks, fines and closure of TV and radio channels, and restrictions on access to the airwaves. As of October 2018, 145 journalists and media workers had been jailed and hundreds of journalists remained on trial. During the review period, some of the convicted journalists (e.g., Şahin Alpay, Deniz Yücel, Mehmet Altan and Enis Berberoğlu) were released for various reasons.

In 2017, six temporary or permanent broadcasting bans were applied, three instances of accreditation discrimination occurred, 47 passports and one press card were cancelled, and three media outlets were closed. During this period, 10 websites, six newspapers, 97 news reports and articles, eight books, six magazines, three Twitter messages and eight caricatures were censored, while nine censorship cases were noted. During the review period, one Syrian woman and one U.S.-Saudi Arabian journalist were killed in Istanbul, 20 journalists were physically assaulted and five journalists verbally assaulted, one newspaper and one publishing house were attacked, and 12 journalists and five media outlets were threatened.

The Venice Commission reported that the use of state of emergency powers had violated media freedom. The Committee to Protect Journalists joined 18 other international press freedom and freedom of expression organizations in calling on Turkey’s politicians to prioritize press freedom and journalists’ safety, just before the 2018 elections. The ECtHR examined some applications and found that the Turkish authorities had violated journalists’ rights to liberty, security and freedom of expression.
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 2018 Report, Brussels, 17.4.2018, https://ec.europa.eu/neighbourhood-enlargement/sites/near/files/20180417-turkey- report.pdf (accessed 1 November 2018)
“CPJ calls on Turkey’s presidential candidates to prioritize press freedom,” https://cpj.org/blog/2018/06/cpj-calls-on-turkeys-presidential-candidates-to-pr.php (accessed 1 November 2018)
Union of Journalist of Turkey, https://tgs.org.tr/2017-yili-basin-ozgurlugu-raporu/ (accessed 1 November 2018)
Reporters Without Borders, Turkey, https://rsf.org/en/turkey (accessed 1 November 2018)
Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2017, https://freedomhouse.org/sites/default/files/FOTP_2017_booklet_FINAL_April28.pdf (accessed 1 November 2018)
Freedom House, Freedom on the Net 2018: The Rise of Digital Authoritarianism, https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-net/freedom-net-2018/rise-digital-authoritarianism (accessed 1 November 2018)
N. Newman and et al., Reuters Institute Digital News Reports, http://media.digitalnewsreport.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/digital-news-report-2018.pdf?x89475 (accessed 1 November 2018)
“4 soruda internete RTÜK denetimi düzenlemesi,” 22 March 2018, https://www.bbc.com/turkce/haberler-turkiye-43494950 (accessed 1 November 2018)
BİA Media Monitoring Report 2017: One Year of Journalists, Media, http://bianet.org/english/politics/194098-bia-media-monitoring-report-2017-one-year-of-journalists-media (accessed 1 November 2018)
Bora Erdem, Avrupa Standartlarına Göre Türkiye’de Basın Özgürlüğü, Istanbul: Cinius Yayınları, 2017.
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