Electoral Processes


To what extent do candidates and parties have fair access to the media and other means of communication?

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
The access of candidates and parties to media and means of communication is fair in principle, but practical constraints, such as the duration and breadth of a program’s coverage, restrict access for smaller parties and candidates to televised debates and other media appearances. Given the increased impact of such appearances on the electoral outcome, this bias is somewhat problematic from the point of view of fairness and justice. However, the restrictions reflect practical considerations rather than ideological agendas. Access to newspapers and commercial forms of communication is unrestricted, though in practice it is dependent on the economic resources of parties and individual candidates. Candidates are required to report on the sources of their campaign funds. Social media play an increasing role in candidates’ electoral campaigns, as these outlets now attract a growing share of voters.
Strandberg, Kim (2012): Sosiaalisen median vallankumous? Ehdokkaat, valitsijat ja sosiaalinen media vuoden 2011 eduskuntavaaleissa. In: S. Borg (ed.), Muutosvaalit 2011, Helsinki: Ministry of Justice, 79-93.
Political campaigning is largely unregulated by federal legislation, a fact modestly criticized by the latest OSCE election report (OSCE 2013: 1). Article 5 of the Political Parties Act (Parteiengesetz, PPA) requires that “where a public authority provides facilities or other public services for use by one party, equal treatment must be accorded to all parties.” During electoral campaigns, this general criterion applies to all parties that have submitted election applications (Art. 5 sec. 2). The extent of public services parties are able to use depends on their relative importance, which is based on each parties’ results in the last general election (Art. 5 sec. 3). This is called the “principle of gradual equality,” and constitutes the basis for parties’ access to media in conjunction with the Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting and Telemedia (Rundfunkstaatsvertrag). The gradual equality principle is also applied to television airtime, although in this case the time granted to large parliamentary parties is not allowed to exceed twice the amount offered to smaller parliamentary parties, which in turn receive no more than double the amount of airtime provided to parties currently unrepresented in parliament. While public media networks provide campaigns with airtime free of charge, private media are not allowed to charge airtime fees of more than 35% of what they demand for commercial advertising (Die Medienanstalten 2013: 12). Despite these rules, there is a persistent debate as to whether the media’s tendency to generally focus coverage on the six largest parties and, in particular, on government parties is too strong.

The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) concluded with respect to the general elections in 2009: “[t]he amount and pluralistic nature of the information available allowed the voters to make an informed choice” (ODIHR 2009: 2). This general evaluation is still valid and no important rules have changed since.
OSCE (2013): Federal Republic of Germany. Elections to the Federal Parliament (Bundestag). 22 September 2013. OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Report.
Warsaw: OSCE/ODIHR. Internet source: http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/109518?download=true (11/05/2014).
All candidates and all parties have equal opportunities of access to the national media and other means of communication. The equality among political candidates in terms of their access to media is to a large extent safeguarded by the public service rules of the SVT (public television) and Sverige Radio (SR), a public radio outlet.

The print media in Sweden is overwhelmingly non-socialist in its political allegiance and is therefore more likely to cover non-socialist candidates than candidates from the parties on the political left. However, journalists have a significantly stronger preference for the Green and the Left parties than does the electorate as a whole. There is also a genuine left-wing media, particularly present on the internet. It should also be noted that the right-wing Sweden Democrats (Sverigedemokraterna, SD) is rapidly gaining importance in the electoral process as well as in parliament. Some newspapers still refuse to publish this party’s advertisements. And some newspapers have no political leaning, and rather criticize the actions of all parties.

In Sweden, as elsewhere in Europe, the usage of social media and other new forms of information sharing are increasing. These media are becoming more important for political campaigns. Though the information provided by social and other electronic media is vast and varied, selectivity facilitates a more narrow consumption of information than in traditional print media.
Asp, K. (2012), “Journalistkårens partisympatier,” in K. Asp (ed.), Svenska Journalister 1989-2011 (Gothenburg: JMG), 101-107.

Olsson, J., H. Ekengren Oscarsson and M. Solevid (eds.) (2016), Eqvilibrium (Gothenburg: The SOM Institute).
Candidates and parties may purchase political advertising in the print media. The only restriction to equal access by candidates and parties to these media outlets relates to resources. In this regard, there is a lack of transparency as political parties and candidates are not required to disclose who is supporting them. In 2017, the Social Democratic Party collected a sufficient number of signatures to force a vote on a constitutional “transparency” article, which will be held in the next few years. The initiative would require that political parties name donors that give more than CHF 10,000. Likewise, if a person spends CHF 100,000 or more on an electoral or a popular campaign, they must name all donors who gave at least CHF 10,000.

Political advertising on television or other broadcast media is not allowed. In this regard, all candidates and parties have equal access, in the sense that none is able to buy political advertising on broadcast media.

Media organizations give a fair and balanced opportunity to political actors to present their views and programs, insofar as this does not become simple advertisement. Right-wing politicians sometimes complain that journalists give center-left politicians better access. There is little hard evidence that such a bias exists to any substantial extent. On the other hand, representatives of the Swiss People’s Party have successfully used their economic resources to control quality papers, such as the Basler Zeitung and they have tried to get a handle on the country’s leading newspaper, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
Denmark is a liberal democracy. According to section 77 of the constitution, freedom of speech is protected: “Any person shall be at liberty to publish his ideas in print, in writing, and in speech, subject to his being held responsible in a court of law. Censorship and other preventive measures shall never again be introduced.” Freedom of speech includes freedom of the press. According to the Press Freedom Index published in 2015 by Reporters Without Borders, Denmark ranked third, after Finland and Norway. In their 2017 index, Denmark ranked fourth behind Norway, Sweden and Finland. The penal code sets three limits to freedom of speech: libel, blasphemy and racism. The independent courts interpret the limits of these exceptions.

The public media (Denmark’s Radio and TV2) have to fulfill programming criteria of diversity and fairness. All political parties that plan to take part in elections, whether old or new, large or small have the right to equal programming time on the radio and on television. Private media, mostly newspapers, tend also to be open to all parties and candidates. The trend decline in newspapers has implied a concentration on a few national newspapers, which has reduced media pluralism. However, all newspapers are, for instance, open to accepting and publishing letters to the editor. Likewise, all parties and candidates have equal possibilities of distributing pamphlets and posters. Finances can be a limiting factor, however, with the larger parties having more money for campaigns than smaller parties.
Straffeloven [The Penal Code], http://www.themis.dk/synopsis/docs/Lovsamling/Straffeloven_indholdsfortegnelse.html (accessed 15 April 2013).

Reporters Without Borders, “Press Freedom Index 2015,” http://index.rsf.org/#!/ (Accessed 7 October 2015).
Reporters Without Borders, “Press Freedom Index 2016,” https://rsf.org/en/ranking (Accessed 17 October 2016).
Reporters Without Borders, “Press Freedom Index 2017,” https://rsf.org/en/ranking_table (Accessed 16 October 2017).

Zahle Henrik, 2001, Dansk Forfatningsret 1.
Candidates and political parties have fair and equal access to the public broadcasting and TV networks. Access to advertising on private TV and radio channels, however, depends on the financial resources of the political parties. Therefore, smaller political parties and independent candidates have significantly limited access to mass media. There is no upper limit on electoral campaign expenses, which provides significant advantage to candidates and parties with more abundant financial resources. However, these disparities do not follow a coalition-opposition divide, nor is there discrimination on the basis of racial, ethnic, religious or gender status. Because of the high Internet penetration rate, various e-tools are becoming widely used in electoral campaigns, including election portals run by public and private media outlets. This has helped candidates keep costs down and reach a wider public.
According to French laws regulating electoral campaigns, all candidates must receive equal treatment in terms of access to public radio and television. Media time allocation is supervised by an ad hoc commission during the official campaign. Granted incumbents may be tempted to use their position to maximize their media visibility before the official start. Private media outlets are not obliged to follow these rules, but except for media outlets that expressly support certain party positions, newspapers and private media tend to fairly allocate media time to candidates, with the exception of marginal candidates who often run with the purpose of getting free media time.

The paradox of this rule for equal time is that the presidential candidates who are likely to make it to the second round receive the same amount of media time as candidates who represent extremely marginal ideas or interests.
Incumbent political parties represented either in the national parliament or the European Parliament have equal opportunities for media access. However, the country’s national broadcaster (ERT) nowadays primarily, if not exclusively, communicates the views of the government coalition Syriza-ANEL, as it had done until 2014 with its previous political masters, namely either the PASOK or the ND government. In addition, since 2013 – when ERT was replaced by a new public broadcaster (NERIT) for a two-year period – the trade union of ERT’s employees (POSPERT) has operated a “self-managed” radio station, called ERT-open. The radio station almost exclusively broadcasts either Syriza views or the views of radical and anarchist groups to the left of Syriza.

Private media are also selective in their reporting and many are sensationalist. Relevant media outlets obviously include new social media, which played a major role in promoting the “no” vote in the July 2015 national referendum. The “no” vote won by 61%. Incidentally, in the same referendum almost all private media had supported the “yes” vote, which indicates that a large share of Greek public opinion falls under the radar of social media outlets.

Since the neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn won parliamentary representation in the 2012 elections and repeated its success by obtaining 7% of the vote in the two parliamentary elections of 2015, most media have not invited the party’s leaders to political debates nor to interviews because the party has expressed very strong anti-parliamentary and racist views.
http://aceproject.org/epic-en/me/Epic_view/GR [accessed on 08.05.2013]
The trade-union managed radio station’s website is http://www.ertopen.com/
Irish political issues continue to receive widespread and detailed coverage in the press, on radio and on TV. Media coverage – especially on radio and TV – is subject to strict guidelines designed to ensure equity of treatment between the political parties. The state-owned national broadcasting company (RTÉ) allows equal access to all parties that have more than a minimum number of representatives in the outgoing parliament. Smaller political parties and independent candidates find it less easy to gain access to the national media. However, any imbalances that may exist at the national level tend to be offset at the local level through coverage by local radio stations and newspapers. Subject to normal public safety and anti-litter regulations, all parties and candidates are free to erect posters in public spaces. There were no significant changes in this area during the review period.

It is worth noting, though, that following legislation in 2009, the 2011 election was the first in which RTÉ no longer operated entirely under self-regulation. This legislation meant that for the first time the regulation of both private and public broadcasters was vested in a single body, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI). While these changes occurred prior to the current review period, research in this area is only just becoming available (see reference). The BAI does not, so far, seem to be all that effective in increasing transparency, although research suggests that RTÉ does have internal procedures that pay a great deal of attention to its statutory requirement to achieve “balance.”
Kevin Rafter (2015), ‘Regulating the Airwaves: How Political Balance is Achieved in Practice in Election News Coverage.’ Irish Political Studies 30:4, 575-594.
The publicly owned media are obliged to provide equal access to all political parties and coalitions. Debate programs on the state-funded Lithuanian Radio and Television are financed by the Central Electoral Commission. The media are also obliged to offer all campaigns the same terms when selling air time for paid campaign advertisements.

Newly introduced restrictions on political advertising, as well as restrictions on corporate donations to political parties, reduced the ability of the most-well-financed parties to dominate the airwaves in the run-up to the elections. Privately owned media organizations are not obliged to provide equal access to all political parties.

According to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), during the run-up to the 2014 presidential elections, the media environment was diverse and coverage of the campaign was thoroughly regulated. Candidates were provided with free air time on an equal basis by the public broadcaster, and all media were obliged to provide equal conditions for paid advertising. Although it was asserted by some that incumbent officials were provided with more media coverage, this did not create an uneven playing field for candidates. The OSCE confirmed the plurality of Lithuania’s media environment and that freedom of expression was generally respected during the 2016 parliamentary elections, although there were controversies concerning interference in editorial independence.
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Report on the 2016 parliamentary elections in Lithuania, see http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/296446.
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Report on the 2014 presidential elections in Lithuania, http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/116359?download=true.
Parties have access to broadcast time on television and radio for political purposes during the official campaign period of two weeks preceding an election. This time is divided equally among the parties, according to the number of candidates they present. Parties need to present lists in at least 25% of electoral districts, and field a total number of candidates equal to at least one-quarter of the total number of possible candidates, to qualify for these broadcasts. These short broadcasts (lasting a maximum of three minutes for each party) air during prime-time, and had a non-negligible audience during the recent elections.

If one considers media access more broadly, access to news programs and political debates is overwhelmingly concentrated on the five lists that have parliamentary representation: the Socialist Party (Partido Socialista, PS), the Social Democratic Party (Partido Social Democrata, PSD), the Democratic and Social Center/Popular Party (Partido Popular, CDS-PP), the Left Bloc (Bloco de Esquerda, BE) and the Unified Democratic Coalition (Coligação Democrática Unitária, joining the Portuguese Communist Party and the Ecologist Party, CDU). Thus, television news coverage, which is popular in terms of TV ratings and is the predominant source of information for the Portuguese, is heavily concentrated on the five main parties.

In the penultimate review period, an issue emerged relating to the National Election Commission’s interpretation of legislation requiring media to provide equal coverage to all parties during an election campaign. This was resolved by providing media outlets with greater editorial freedom than had previously been the case under the electoral laws. This resolution apparently proved workable in the October 2017 local elections, with TV channels resuming their regular coverage of these elections after boycotting local candidates in their 2013 coverage because of the issue noted above.

Legislativas 2015, “Maioria vai aprovar lei da cobertura eleitoral contra toda a oposição,” 18/06/2015, available online at: http://www.legislativas2015.pt/2015/06/18/maioria-vai-aprovar-lei-da-cobertura-eleitoral-contra-toda-a-oposicao/

Lei n.º 72-A/2015 de 23 de julho, available online at: http://www.cne.pt/sites/default/files/dl/lei_72-a_2015_cobertura-jornalistica_publicidade_comercial_1.pdf
Despite the government’s attempts at controlling the media and the recent changes in media ownership, Slovakia’s media market is so pluralistic as to ensure that all candidates and parties have fair access to the media. Election laws mandate that campaign messages must be clearly distinguished from other media content. While the public Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS) is required to introduce the candidates and present their campaigns, this is optional for private-media organizations.Since the parliamentary elections in March 2016, the publication of opinion poll results is no longer allowed in the last 14 days before the elections. In the 2017 regional elections, another controversial rule was applied for the first time. The ban on the broadcasting of political advertisement by TV and radio stations in the 48 hours before election day was criticized for being selective by not including internet broadcasting and broadcasting from abroad.
The Media Law (Article 39g) requires that political parties with one or more seats in either chamber of the States General be allotted time on the national broadcasting stations during the parliamentary term, provided that they participate in nationwide elections. The Commission for the Media ensures that political parties are given equal media access free from government influence or interference (Article 11.3). The commission is also responsible for allotting national broadcasting time to political parties participating in European elections. Broadcasting time is denied only to parties that have been fined for breaches of Dutch anti-discrimination legislation. The public prosecutor is bringing discrimination charges against Geert Wilders, the leading member of parliament representing the Party for Freedom. However, individual media outlets decide themselves how much attention to pay to political parties and candidates. Since 2004, state subsidies for participating in elections have been granted only to parties already represented in the States General. Whether this practice constitutes a form of unequal treatment for newcomers is currently a matter of discussion.
Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
There are no explicit barriers restricting access to the media for any political party or candidate. The media is generally independent, and highly activist. Furthermore, the public broadcasters – the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) – are required under the Australian Broadcasting Act to provide balanced coverage. In practice, the two dominant parties attract most coverage and it is somewhat difficult for minor parties to obtain media coverage. For example, the ABC has a practice of providing free air time to each of the two main parties (Labor and the Liberal-National coalition) during the election campaign, a service not extended to other political parties. Print media is highly concentrated and biased toward the established parties. However, independent and minor-party Senators do attract considerable media attention when the governing party does not have a majority in the senate, and therefore requires their support to pass legislation. In recent decades, this has been the rule rather than the exception, and is indeed currently the situation.

In terms of advertising, there are no restrictions on expenditures by candidates or parties, although no advertising is permitted in the three days up to and including polling day. Inequity in access to the media through advertising does arguably arise, as the governing party has the capacity to run advertising campaigns that nominally serve to provide information to the public about government policies and programs, but which are in fact primarily conducted to advance the electoral interests of the governing party.
While national media outlets do demonstrate political orientations, in general there is fair and balanced coverage of election campaigns and parties. Under sections 335, 339 and 343 of the Canada Elections Act, every broadcaster in Canada is required to make a minimum of 390 minutes of air time during each federal general election available for purchase by registered political parties. The allocation of airtime among the parties is usually based on a formula that takes into account factors such as the party’s percentage of seats in the House of Commons, its percentage of the popular vote in the last general election, and the number of candidates it endorsed as a percentage of all candidates. The Canadian system is one of paid political advertising; that is, any broadcasting time used before an election has to be paid for, and there is no free direct access. However, whether or not this translated into unequal access is unclear, as campaign spending regulations likely impose de facto limits on how much parties can actually spend on televised advertising time.
The Elections Act restricts the amount any outside group can spend on political advertising during a political campaign to CAD 211,200 (as of 2017). Under the changes implemented to the act through bill C-23 in 2014, this sum also became the limit on any spending “in relation to an election,” not just during the campaign itself, thus capping total spending on political communications in the four to five years between elections.
Parliament of Canada, Bill C-23: An Act to amend the Canada Elections Act and other Acts and to make consequential amendments to certain Acts, posted at http://www.parl.gc.ca/HousePublications/Publication.aspx?Language=E&Mode=1&DocId =6684613.
A significant portion of television channels are owned by a single political leader, Silvio Berlusconi, and demonstrate a special favor toward him and his party. Overall, however, the media offers a reasonably fair treatment of all political candidates. The most important national newspapers and privately owned television broadcasters offer fairly equal access to all positions. State television maintains a generally neutral position. Some political parties own their own media outlets, including daily newspapers (subsidized by the state) and small television channels. However, the impact of these media outlets is limited.

Access to television by parties and candidates is regulated by a law (Law 28/2000) that provides for equal time for each party during electoral campaigns. An independent oversight authority (Autorità per le Garanzie nelle Comunicazioni) ensures that the rules are followed and has the power to sanction violations. This power is effectively used. Public television is controlled by a parliamentary committee, which reflects the composition of the whole parliament. Although the government in office typically attracts more airtime than the opposition, the treatment of the different parties by the public broadcaster is fairly balanced overall. In the print sector, the large variety of newspapers both with and without a clear political orientation provides sufficiently balanced coverage of all positions.

As the role of electronic (internet) and social media in political contests continues to grow, politicians and parties can rely increasingly on these new forms of media to reach citizens and voters more directly. This fact makes political players more independent from large media groups and public media.
Access to the media for electioneering purposes is regulated by the Public Offices Election Law, and basically ensures a well-defined rule set for all candidates. In recent years, the law has been strongly criticized for being overly restrictive, for instance by preventing broader use of the internet and other advanced electronic-data services. In 2013, the Public Offices Election Law was revised; the new version allows the use of online networking sites such as Twitter in electoral campaigning, as well as more liberal use of banner advertisements. Regulations are in place to prevent abuses such as the use of a false identity to engage in political speech online.

The expanded campaign-media options were actively used in the October 2017 Lower House elections, though actual patterns of behavior varied strongly between parties.
Nikkei.com: Diet OKs Bill To Allow Online Election Campaign, 19 April 2013

2017 Lower House Election/Parties bet on the web to reach voters, The Japan News by the Yomiuri Shimbun, 16 October 2017, http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004006308
All newspapers have some ties to political parties, reflecting the ownership of the publications. They tend to be rather biased or partisan, especially during election campaigns. While “Luxembourger Wort” was always close to the Christian Social People’s Party, “Tageblatt” is affiliated with the Luxembourg Socialist Workers’ Party and the “Lëtzebuerger Journal” has close links to the Democratic Party. To counter a dwindling readership, newspapers have adopted a more balanced line in recent years, reducing their political bias, to the benefit of smaller parties and organizations. Since there are no significant public broadcasters, the main private broadcaster “Radio Télé Luxembourg” guarantees balanced reporting, according to its concession contract with the state of Luxembourg. During election campaigns, parliament provides the political party lists with airtime and the opportunity to broadcast television ads. Furthermore, the government organizes roundtables with candidates from all lists. The financing of election campaigns, especially the distribution of promotional leaflets by mail, is regulated by law.

The media market is becoming more pluralistic. Reports and comments in print media have become less partisan and the media distances itself more from party influences than in prior years. The government is expected to revise press subsidies in the near future, with the aim of redistributing financial aid to support online media as a supplement to classic print media.
Des médias. Service information et presse du gouvernement luxembourgeois, 2013. http://www.luxembourg.public.lu/fr/publications/e/ap-medias/AP-Medias-2013-EN.pdf. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“Neue Online-Pressehilfe: Die Bedingungen.” Luxemburger Wort, 9 Dec. 2016, www.wort.lu/de/politik/staatshaushalt-2017-neue-online-pressehilfe-die-bedingungen-584ac4435061e01abe83d7e2. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“Angekündigte Reform lässt auf sich warten.” Luxemburger Wort, 28 July 2017, www.wort.lu/de/politik/staatliche-pressehilfe-angekuendigte-reform-laesst-auf-sich-warten-597b03b7a5e74263e13c4db0. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“Luxembourg.” Eurotopics, www.eurotopics.net/fr/142186/medias?search=&country=146415&language=0&art=0&circulation=0&typ=2. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.

“Presse écrite.” Le portail officiel du Grand-Duché de Luxembourg, 7 Apr. 2015, www.luxembourg.public.lu/fr/le-grand-duche-se-presente/medias/presse-ecrite/. Accessed 21 Dec. 2017.
New Zealand
Allocation of election broadcasting time and funds in New Zealand’s multiparty system are based on several criteria, including: share of the vote during the previous election; seats in parliament; party membership; and results of opinion polls. The process is monitored by the independent Electoral Commission, and follows procedures laid down in the Electoral Act 1993 and the Broadcasting Act 1998. This ensures the fair coverage of different political positions, although the process has been criticized for favoring parties in decline and disadvantaging emerging parties that have yet to contest an election. Funding of political campaign broadcasts by non-party actors, and the debate over public versus private funding of political parties and campaigns are yet to secure cross-party agreement. A new interpretation of the Broadcasting Act led to a debate in 2017 as to whether the fact that the public now has been granted the right to advertise on TV and radio about politicians in addition to newspapers represents a fundamental change to how election campaigning takes place in New Zealand. It is feared that attack ads can now be run by anyone with the funds to sponsor such ads.

Media coverage of political issues is generally fair and balanced. Although in some previous elections televised debates included the leaders of all parliamentary parties, during the 2017 general election the main debates were restricted to the leaders of the two major parties, with the leaders of the largest of the small parties being invited to debate separately (Winston Peters declined to participate). A formal complaint was filed by the leader of a small party that was not invited to be represented in the televised minor party leaders’ debate. The court ruled in favor of the criteria for participation laid down by Television New Zealand, thereby confirming the small party’s exclusion from the debate. In addition to concerns about the fair treatment of minor parties in a multiparty system, the two-tiered arrangement was criticized for thwarting discussion about possible combinations for any future multiparty government.
Broadcasting Act 1989 (Wellington: Ministry for Culture and Heritage 1989).
Electoral Act 1993 (Wellington: The Government of New Zealand 2012).
Decision of the Electoral Commission on the allocation of time and money to eligible political parties for the broadcasting of election programs for the 2014 General Election (Wellington: Electoral Commission 2014).
Edwards, Bryce, 2017. Political Roundup: Politicians under attack – should we be worried?. New Zealand Herald. 2 March 2017.
Candidates and parties are free to purchase political advertising in print publications and on the internet. Advertisements from political parties are not allowed on television or radio. This ban has been subject to some controversy, with the populist Progress Party advocating a removal of the restriction. The other political parties are opposed to changing the law.

Television and radio broadcasters, both public and private, organize many electoral debates, to which all major parties (those with a vote share larger than 3% in the previous election) have fair access. There is no direct government interference in choosing the teams of journalists that conduct debates. In general, however, representatives of the larger parties are interviewed more often and participate in more debates than do small-party candidates. Political advertising during election campaigns is extensively regulated to ensure that voters are aware of sources.

The Norwegian media landscape is rapidly changing as digital media replaces print media, which is struggling to survive. In parallel, traditional media houses see that revenues from ads are moving away from Norway to global companies (e.g., Google and Facebook) which contribute little in terms of tax revenues and the promotion of Norwegian culture and language.
While both the public and private media tend to focus on the parliamentary political parties, Slovenia’s public-media regulatory system and pluralist media environment ensure that all candidates and parties have access to the media. The public TV and radio stations are legally obliged to set aside some airtime for parties to present their messages and their candidates. Since a third public TV channel (mainly covering parliamentary debates) was established in 2014, airtime for political parties and candidate lists has increased. Before the 2017 presidential election, there were various televised debates with all nine candidates. Compared to previous elections, however, the media bias in favor of the three parties of the governing coalition has increased.
All Spanish democratic parties or candidates have access to the public media without unreasonable or systematic discrimination. The electoral law (Organic Law 5/1985) regulates strictly the access to public television and public radio networks during electoral campaigns. The system is even very rigid, allocating times for free advertisement slots (paid advertising is not allowed) and news coverage. Thus, parties receive a free slot of 10, 15, 30 or 45 minutes every day, depending on their share of the vote in the previous elections. A similar system operates with regard to news coverage, where the time allocated to each party is also proportional to the previous electoral results. New candidates or parties find it difficult to gain public media access in this system, though it did not prevent Podemos and Ciudadanos from achieving their electoral gains in December 2015 and June 2016.

Regarding private media, a reform of the electoral law in 2011 extended the aforementioned system of proportional news coverage during the electoral period to privately owned television stations. Apart from this special regulation for campaigns, empirical work shows a significant connection between media and parties with the same political orientation. For parties not represented in parliament and which therefore have no legal guarantee to broadcast time, the situation is more difficult. They must rely on the internet and small direct digital TV channels.

In short, the Spanish media system as a whole does not provide all political positions with absolutely fair and balanced access to the media, but pluralist coverage is indeed achieved.
Diciembre 2016, Laura Teruel Rodríguez: “Del Politainment a las redes sociales: ¿Ha servido a los políticos españoles participar del infotainment?”
https://riuma.uma.es/xmlui/bitstr eam/handle/10630/12574/Art%C3%ADcul o%20politainment%20valencia%20DEF.p df?sequence=1
During electoral campaigns, all parties with parliamentary representation have the right to participate in non-biased debates hosted on the public broadcasting system. This can be seen as an obstacle to new parties, which are not covered by this guarantee.

There is no such rule for the private media, either print or electronic. While political parties today rarely own media organizations outright, print-media organizations more or less openly tend to favor specific parties or their associated political positions.

Political parties have what is, in principle, an unlimited ability to take out print advertisements, as long as the source of the advertisement is openly declared. This gives established parties with better access to funding (especially parties in government) some advantage.

However, the access to present a party’s perspectives depends on its financial capacity. Despite rules, recently implemented to guarantee some balance, it became publicly known that some parties significantly overspent during the electoral campaign of 2013 and 2017, and therefore clearly violated the rules. Moreover, in 2016, during the electoral presidential campaign, the two candidates for the final (second) round were unable to reach a consensus on how to control campaign spending.
All mainstream political parties, or so-called democratic parties, have broadly equal access to the media (however, equal media airtime is not guaranteed by law). Minor parties and so-called non-democratic (essentially post-fascist) parties do not have equal access to media, as the main TV stations, for instance, reserve the right to ban such political parties from broadcasts. Print media also offer broad and mostly balanced coverage of political parties, although some newspapers may have preferential links to this or that party “family.”

The influence of post-fascist or national-populist parties varies depending on geographical region. In Flanders, the national-populist Vlaams Belang is considered to be an acceptable party for media interviews and broadcasts. The communist PTB/PVdA receives considerable media coverage across the country since it is now represented in parliament, has a quite mediagenic leader and is popular in polls (especially among French-speaking Belgians). All other parties have quite fair access to the media. Difficulty of access seems to be a substantial issue only for ultra-minority parties, largely because of their small size.
No legal framework governs parties and candidates’ access to print and online media. However, almost all newspapers and their online editions offer coverage to all parties and candidates.

The Law on Radio and Television 7(I)/1998 requires equitable and non-discriminatory treatment of the executive and legislative powers, the political forces and other actors in society, while the law governing the public-service broadcaster (Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, RIK) refers only to equitable treatment of political actors. Equity must be respected in particular during the pre-election period; there is, however, discrepancy in the law about its duration. Air time must be allotted in accordance with political parties’ share of parliamentary seats and territorial reach.

Broadcasters are required to comply with a self-produced code of coverage. Monitoring of commercial broadcasters is performed by the Cyprus Radio Television Authority (CRTA), which also produces an annual report on the remit of the public broadcaster. Codes of conduct have almost never been publicly available, and compliance reports are rarely produced or have generic content. Paid political advertising on broadcast media is allowed during the 40 days preceding elections.

The rules on media access appear to be respected in practice. Smaller parties enjoyed proportionally more time on public service media in 2016. However, the lack of publication of a code of conduct is a serious shortcoming that affects our evaluation. Also, female candidates have a worrisomely low level of media access and visibility.
1. The Law on Radio and Television Stations, L. 7(I)/1998, in English, available at http://crta.org.cy/images/users/1/FINAL%20CONSOLIDATED%20LAW%2016.3.17.pdf
2. Report on RIK, public broadcaster for 2016, CRTA [Unpublished report].
3. Regulations on fair treatment of parties and candidates, Normative Administrative Acts (NAA) 193/2006 available at http://www.cylaw.org/nomothesia/par _3/meros_1/2006/1641.pdf (in Greek), and NAA 207/2009 (on European Parliament Elections), available at http://www.cylaw.org/nomothesia/par _3/meros_1/2009/1087.pdf (in Greek).
4. On candidates claims for equal treatment, see, Supreme Court – Revisional Jurisdiction, Case 128/2013, Praxoula Antoniadou v. Radio Broadcasting Corporation, Decision 13 January 2014, available at http://www.cylaw.org/cgi-bin/open.pl?file=/apofaseis/aad/meros_4/2014/4-201401-128-13apof.htm (in Greek)
Formally, all parties or candidates have equal access to media. There are no restrictions based on race, gender, language, or other such demographic factors. However, parties already represented in the national parliament or in local councils have an electoral advantage over new parties or candidates. Furthermore, in the 2013 parliamentary election campaign, several media organizations systematically discriminated against small or new parties, which opinion polls had indicated were unlikely to surpass the 5% minimum vote threshold. However, the state-run media cover all major parties. During the election campaign in the autumn 2017 elections, two small parties complained about not being allowed to participate in the party leader debate on the state-run TV the night before the election day. However, both parties were seen to have very low support and neither ran in all constituencies.
One of the foundation stones of Israel’s democracy is the county’s free press and media. As a part of this system, various laws ensure the equality of access for all candidates and parties. Moreover, the criteria for allocation of air time during election campaigns are impartial (that is, not subject to any kind of arbitrary considerations), and are determined by the chairman of the Central Elections Committee (CEC). More specifically, under the election law, it is stated that the CEC chairman determines the radio-broadcasting time that will be provided to each list of candidates (currently, each list is entitled to 25 minutes, plus another six minutes for every member of the departing Knesset), whereas all advertising broadcasts must be funded by the party themselves and must be approved in advance by the CEC chairman. Recently, the elections-law examination committee published a number of new recommendations including: an end to the reservation of radio- and television-broadcast time for each party, an end to the prohibition on political broadcast advertisements for the 60 days before election day, application of the current law on internet media, a removal of archaic clauses, and more. As of the time of writing, these recommendations had not been approved.

While election-broadcasting rights are fair and balanced, everyday access to the media is unequal in several respects. Most notable is the fact that Israeli Arabs interviewees are underrepresented in Hebrew broadcast media. According to the “Representation Index,” a collaboration between the Sikkuy Association for the Advancement of Civic Equality, the Seventh Eye media-watchdog journal and the Ifat media research institute, more Israeli Arabs appeared on Israeli television talk shows and on radio in 2016 than ever before, but remained significantly underrepresented. The Seventh Eye media-watchdog journal pointed out last year that in many cases, when conducting public-opinion surveys, the media only contacts Jewish citizens. While those surveys are sometimes presented as representing the Israeli public opinion, the fact that they exclude Arab citizens is usually not mentioned. The exclusion of the Arab population from public-opinion polls was said by some members of the Israel Press Council to reflect a wider phenomenon regarding the media coverage of the Arab population in Israel. Consequently, the Israel Press Council, a voluntary body of publishers, editors, journalists and public representatives, amended Article 14 of its code of ethics to prohibit the exclusion of and discrimination against different populations. Under the terms of this amendment, the Press Council is able to address complaints regarding violation of the article through its ethical courts, which have the authority to impose various punishments on journalists or publications.
Hattis Rolef, Susan, Ben Meir, Liat and Zwebner, Sarah, “Party financing and election financing in Israel,” Knesset Research Institute, 21.7.2003 (Hebrew).

Persiko, Oren. “A Step Toward Dealing with the Media’s Attitude Toward Marginalized Populations” (Hebrew), 18.02.2016, the7eye: https://www.the7eye.org.il/193765

Persiko, Oren. “About Bullying and Discrimination” (Hebrew), 30.08.2017, the7eye: https://www.the7eye.org.il/219708

Persiko, Oren. “And not Discriminate or Exclude” (Hebrew), 25.09.2016, the7eye: https://www.the7eye.org.il/262354

Shwartz-Altshuler and Lurie, Guy, “Redesign the Israeli Election Propaganda Arrangements“, Israel Democracy Institute website 6.4.2015, http://www.idi.org.il/%D7%A1%D7%A4%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9D-%D7%95%D7%9E%D7%90%D7%9E%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9D/%D7%9E%D7%90%D7%9E%D7%A8%D7%99%D7%9D/redesigning_propaganda_regulations/ (Hebrew)

Stern, Itay. “Israeli Arab Representation on TV Talk Shows Shot Up in 2016”(Hebrew), 02.02.2017, Haaretz: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.769065”
Electoral candidates and every political party have equal access to the media. Publicly financed election broadcasts on public and private television are equally available to all, although debates between political party leaders before elections often feature only those parties leading in the polls.

The national media system as a whole provides fair and balanced coverage. Individually, however, media outlets do not consistently provide fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions. Local newspapers and electronic media in Latvia’s rural regions are often dependent on advertising and other support from the local authorities, sometimes leading to unbalanced coverage favoring incumbents. Local government-owned print media is pushing independent local media out of the market, leaving only government-owned outlets to function as a public relations arm for incumbents. Meanwhile, the opaque ownership structures of media outlets mean that support for political actors is often implied rather than clearly stated as an editorial position. Corrupt political journalism has been prevalent across a wide spectrum of the media. There are also marked imbalances in media coverage related to the different linguistic communities. For example, both Latvian and Russian-language media demonstrate a bias toward their linguistic audiences.
1. Report on Parliamentary Elections in Latvia, p.2, Available at: http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/86363, Last assessed: 17.05.2013

2. Rožukalne, A. (2010), Research Paper on Hidden Advertising Issues in the Media, Available at (in Latvian): http://politika.lv/article_files/2117/original/slepta_reklama_mediju_prakse.pdf?1343212009, Last assessed: 20.05.2013
South Korea
The 2017 presidential election was unusual, since the political opposition received unprecedented publicity due to the public protests and impeachment process. As a result, there were considerable improvements with regard to candidates’ media access. Previously under the Park Geun-hye government, the Blue House had exerted strong pressure on the country’s major broadcast networks to appoint political supporters of the president as CEOs, and had employed high-ranking network hosts or journalists as Blue House spokespeople. While TV stations and the three major newspapers still had a conservative orientation, it was impossible for them to ignore the massive political protests. The spread of alternative online media has also diminished the power of the traditional media. During the 2017 presidential election campaign, there was new competition in the use of new media by presidential candidates, particularly in the form of personal broadcasting activities using the Afreeca TV, SNS media platform, Facebook Live and YouTube Live services. Cyberpolitics and e-democracy have gradually changed the culture and rules of the game for South Korea’s elections.

In the past, the Korea Communications Standards Commission and the National Election Commission have sought to block accounts or fine online users for online comments critical of the government or the ruling party. It has even come to light that the Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) used social-media posts to support the election of President Park in 2012. Recently, the use of social-media bots to influence online discussions has also become a matter of concern. The immensely controversial National Security Law also applies to online media, creating significant limitations regarding the freedom of expression. The opaque character of South Korean election law concerning allowable support for candidates during the election period, which can last for up to 180 days before an election, represents an electoral gray area. According to some interpretations of Article 93 of the election law, all public expressions of support for candidates or parties are illegal during that period unless one is registered as an official campaigner. This might be seen as a disadvantage for smaller candidates who do not have the same access to traditional media.
“Do you know the dismissed journalists?” Journalists Association of Korea, January 20, 2016. (in Korean) http://www.journalist.or.kr/news/article.html?no=38319
Kyunghyang.Competition of new media strategies among presidential candidates. March 16, 2017. http://sports.khan.co.kr/bizlife/sk_index.html?art_id=201703161022003&sec_id=561101&pt=nv
The media play a central role in political campaigning, and the importance of coverage has further increased in recent years through the rise of social media and the internet. Television remains the most important medium for campaigning in general elections. Paid TV advertising is prohibited for political parties, who can only advertise in newspapers. However, major parties are granted a certain amount of free time for TV advertising, a concession that is not available to minor parties and which could be construed as a deterrent to them.

Coverage on television is fair and balanced, and policed by Ofcom, the industry regulator. Broadcasters are required to be balanced in their coverage of parties, especially at election time. No such restrictions exist for the print industry and indeed there is strong tradition of crass partiality, especially by some newspaper groups that are prominent in national political life, visible once more during the Brexit referendum campaign of 2015 and the ensuing political quarrels. There is therefore a marked imbalance between print and broadcast.
In a formal and legal sense, media access is fair, although the U.S. media exhibit some significant biases. There are only modest publicly funded media: the Public Broadcasting System (PBS, for television), National Public Radio (NPR) and C-SPAN. Most media organizations are privately owned, for-profit enterprises, independent of the government and political parties.

Media content reflects several biases. In election campaigns, media coverage of the major candidates and parties generally reflects the strength and popularity of the competing campaigns, with more favorable coverage going to the leading candidate, regardless of party.

Some media, such as the MSNBC cable news network, have a strong liberal and Democratic party bias. Others, most importantly Fox News Channel, have an fervent conservative and/or Republican bias. During the 2016 campaign and the first year of Trump’s presidency, Fox News has broadly adopted Trump’s often false and misleading rhetorical positions – including his claim that outlets including CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post are providers of “fake news.” Based on neutral fact-checking organizations, Trump is by far the most prolific liar in modern U.S. political history, but Fox News and some far-right websites regularly repeat his claims and rarely question them. Responsible conservative commentators have noted the abandonment of journalistic standards in a large segment of right-wing news media.

Importantly, in election campaigns, media messages are often dominated by paid advertising. Such advertising can reflect massive imbalances in the fundraising capabilities of the opposing candidates or parties, with a modest, inconsistent advantage for the Republicans. In an unusual feature, Donald Trump had a strong advantage in free air-time on news media because audiences were interested in his frequently extreme rhetoric at campaign rallies.

During the 2016 campaign, for the first time, citizens reported getting their information through social media, especially Facebook and Twitter, as often as from traditional news sources. Social media proved highly amenable to the spreading of false information. In particular, Facebook estimates that more than 125 million individuals viewed content that was created by Russian-sponsored accounts seeking to promote Trump’s election, generally by promoting false stories. (It is possible, but far from clear, that this and other Russian interference influenced the outcome of the election.)

The unprecedented biases and distortions in right-wing media and the vulnerability of social media to false news indicate that citizens’ access to reliable information has become problematic.
Czech Rep.
The electoral law guarantees parties access to state radio and television, with a total of 14 hours set aside for all parties to express their views with equal allocation irrespective of the party’s size or previous electoral performance. Thus, all parties do have access to the public media, although presentations are often tedious and unlikely to hold viewers’ and listeners’ attention. Space is also provided by municipalities for billboards, and political advertisements are carried in newspapers. There is a distinct coverage bias toward the larger parties, due to more significant resources and a perception of importance. Moreover, coverage by private media is less balanced than that of public media. Especially the dailies of the MAFRA media group, owned by Andrej Babiš, founder of ANO and minister of finance and deputy prime minister (until May 2017), have been criticized for their political bias. A controversial amendment to the law on conflict of interest in April 2017 (14/2017 Col., also known as Lex Babiš) forced Babiš to transfer all his property, including MAFRA, to a blind trust that includes his close family members.
Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
Media access for candidates and parties differs drastically between publicly and privately run media. The public broadcast media – one TV and one radio station with several channels each – are required by law to provide full and balanced coverage and to set aside time for every candidate and registered party or coalition to make their own presentations. With usually a large number of parties or candidates in the running, including the case of the 2016 presidential elections and the 2017 parliamentary elections, splitting the time between all is a serious challenge that leaves most participants dissatisfied.

By contrast, access to the privately held media, especially print media, is to a large extent a function of influence or financing. Many private media firms are in the hands of business groups heavily involved in dealings with the state. These organizations tend to present the ruling majority in a positive light, or to block the access of competing political candidates, in exchange for favorable business deals. In the case of local elections, many of these media outlets support specific local candidates and coalitions connected to these special interests.

The role of non-traditional media in Bulgarian elections is increasing. Access to these outlets is available to all candidates.
Amendments to the election law in February 2015 changed the legal framework for media coverage of parliamentary elections as part of an effort to end the “clogging” of the media space by minor candidates. As a result of the amendments, private broadcasters are no longer obliged to cover the campaign and public broadcasters can decide themselves whether to provide candidates proportional rather than equal coverage in reports and analysis. Moreover, debates among candidates have been restricted to only one per broadcaster. After the public broadcaster HRT decided to involve only five parties (a decision based on public opinion polls) for a scheduled debate in the run-up to the 2015 parliamentary elections, the State Electoral Committee judged this decision to be arbitrary and the debate was canceled. Before the 2016 parliamentary elections, HRT broadcast a debate with only the leading candidates of the two biggest parties, thereby ignoring MOST’s strong showing in the previous elections and its strategic role. MOST and the smaller parties thus complained of discrimination.
Malta has both state and private media. The Maltese constitution provides for a Broadcasting Authority (BA). Owing to its composition and appointment procedure, the BA is not perceived as an independent regulator. Its job is to supervise broadcasting and ensure impartiality. However, the BA focuses on the PBS (public broadcasting service) and not private outlets. It also does not monitor campaign coverage but rather acts on complaints. During elections, the BA provides for equal time for the two major political parties on state television on its own political debate programs as well as airtime for political advertising. However, smaller parties or independent candidates do not receive equal treatment on state media. In the 2017 elections, the small parties were not able to participate in the main pre-election debates on the PBS; several formal complaints were filed by the smaller parties. The PBS management is appointed by government, which is said to negatively impact its independence. Complaints to the broadcasting watchdog have dwindled and no fines were levied in 2017. The two major political parties also have their own media outlets, which gives them an advantage over smaller parties and has a restrictive effect on genuine debate. The BA and the Press Act require party-run media to allow for a right of reply to an aggrieved party or individual. Access to newspapers becomes increasingly restricted at election time; unrestricted access is obtainable at a cost.

Due to increased competition and the proliferation of privately-owned radio and television stations, all candidates can now obtain airtime to present their views, albeit at a cost. However, the 2017 OSCE election assessment mission report stated that independent candidates and small parties enjoyed little visibility apart from on social media.
http://www.ba-malta.org/prdetails?i d=246
Social Media during the 2013 General Election in Malta. Department of Information Malta
www.consilium.europa.eu/media/…/1 st-panel-oswald-main-slide-speaker….
Sammut,C (2007) Malta and the Media Landscape
The electoral process in Mexico is subject to a comparatively high degree of regulation. During the transition to democracy during the 1990s, electoral laws were revised to ensure more equitable conditions for the main political parties.

Currently, all registered political parties are eligible for public financing, the volume of which corresponds to their electoral strength. There are restrictions on the amount of money parties are allowed to raise and spend. Media access during the official campaign period is regulated to ensure a measure of equality. Nevertheless, outside the tightly regulated political campaigns, news coverage is often heavily biased in favor of incumbents. Presidents as well as governors spend exorbitant sums on advertising and pro-government propaganda. Since news outlets rely on this income for their financial survival, they can often scarcely afford to criticize sitting administrations. The Peña Nieto administration has taken this long-standing practice to new levels. According to a report compiled by the think tank Fundar based on government data, his administration spent nearly $2 billion on advertising in the past five years, substantially more than previous administrations.
New York Times (25 Dec 2017) “Using Billions in Government Cash, Mexico Controls News Media.”
Campaign coverage by broadcast media, both private and public, is subject to detailed and complex regulations. The law provides for free access to public television and radio for all parliamentary parties to promote their platforms. Such access is also granted to non-parliamentary parties that submit full candidate lists in at least 23 constituencies. Broadcasting time granted by public and private broadcasters and editorial boards must ensure non-discriminatory conditions. However, the monitoring capacity and the sanctioning power of the National Audiovisual Council, the regulatory body in charge, are limited. Media access in a broader sense is uneven, as the public media has been susceptible to governmental and parliamentary influence, while private media is biased by its owners’ political and economic interests. Talk-show hosts and political programs seldom invite speakers with views other than those of the media outlet’s owner, and politicians and companies that buy ads often ask media outlets to refrain from criticizing them.
OSCE/ODIHR (2016): Needs Assessment Mission Report: Romania, Parliamentary Elections 11 December 2016, Warsaw, 8-9 (http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/romania/278346?download=true).
Access by candidates and parties to public TV channels is regulated by law (Law No. 18,700, Ley Orgánica Constitucional sobre Votaciones Populares y Escrutinios, and Law No. 18,603, Ley Orgánica Constitucional de los Partidos Políticos). Given the high concentration of media ownership with a specific political viewpoint, candidates and parties de facto lack equal opportunity of access to a plurality of media and other means of communication. La Nación, a former daily paper owned and run by the state, stopped publishing a print edition under former President Sebastián Piñera’s administration (although the publication is still accessible online). Chile’s largest free TV channel (TVN) is state-owned, and is required by law to provide balanced and equal access to all political views and parties – a regulation which is overseen by the National Television Directorate (Consejo Nacional de Televisión, CNTV). The private media is mainly owned and/or influenced by elite associated with the Chile Vamos (until 2015, Alianza por Chile) coalition, which represents the opposition during the period under review. Although La Nación and TVN are state-owned, they must operate according to market rules, relying on advertising revenues and strong audience ratings. In general, regional candidates tend to have fewer media-access opportunities due to the strong centralization of Chile’s political and media systems. By the end of the period under review, TVN was declared bankrupt and the future of the channel seemed uncertain as the parliament will have to decide by the end of 2017 whether to provide public funds and guarantee its functioning or privatize the channel.
Legally, parties and candidates have equal access to public and private media. At least for nationwide candidate lists, the election code requires public TV and radio stations to reserve time for the free broadcasting of campaign materials and for televised candidate debates. In the 2015 presidential and parliamentary elections, the pluralistic nature and quality of the private media in Poland had allowed all parties and candidates the opportunity to reach the public with their messages, although public broadcasters were hesitant to give equal broadcast time to “second-order” candidates in the campaign for the first round of the 2015 presidential elections. The PiS government’s attempts to control the public and private media have increased the partisan bias in media reporting and have made media access for different parties uneven.
Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
As a result of the Orbán government’s takeover of the media, access to the media has become highly uneven. In the period under review, Fidesz has completed the control of the print media and local radio stations in the countryside. All county-based dailies have been purchased by Fidesz oligarchs. Klubrádió – on air only in Budapest – has remained the one and only independent radio station. Since fall 2016, the “media war” has also turned into a “billboard war” in which the government has sought control over political ads on billboards, which have played an important role in the 2010 and 2014 elections and in the government’s campaigns against refugees, “Brussels” and George Soros. As many billboards have been owned by the former Orbán associate – now political enemy and Jobbik supporter – Lajos Simicska, they have been heavily used by the opposition. In order to weaken the visibility of the opposition, parliament passed a controversial law in June 2017 that has prohibited party advertising outside the official campaign period, while allowing the government to continue its “public interest advertisements.” Although the law, as a regulation on parties, would have required a two-thirds majority in parliament, it was adopted by a simple majority only. Simicska has managed to circumvent the new regulations and has intensified the billboard war pretending that the new ads have been private initiatives. As a reaction to the narrowing media access, about eight opposition parties have established an Agóra (agora) as an open forum for public discussion near the parliament building in early September 2017.
According to Law 3984 on the establishment of radio and television enterprises and broadcasts, “equality of opportunity shall be established among political parties and democratic groups; broadcasts shall not be biased or partial; broadcasts shall not violate the principles of election bans which are determined at election times.” However, legislation regulating presidential elections and referendums does not ensure equal access for political parties and candidates to public and private media. The Supreme Board of Elections’ ability to sanction electoral violations was repealed using the state of emergency decree issued in January 2017.

Currently, most mainstream media companies, including the state-owned radio and television company (TRT), are either directly or indirectly controlled by the government, or self-censor. Privately owned media outlets face either judicial or financial investigations, and media freedom is thus being placed at risk in an unconstitutional manner.

During the April 2017 constitutional referendum, the “yes” campaign dominated visual media coverage. Government members, and the Justice and Development Party dominated 70% of all airtime taken by political groups. An independent observer group reported that the president and government party appeared on visual media for about 120,000 minutes, while the main opposition party appeared for about 3,000 minutes. The HDP, pro-Kurdish party, did not appear on any mainstream media channel. Restrictions on social media, violence against journalists and media outlets have increased.

After the 15 July coup attempt, government control over “mainstream” media and media critical of the government further increased. Large-scale lawsuits were systematically used against media outlets critical of the government. The visibility of opposition members in the news media gradually deteriorated. This was felt most dramatically by HDP parliamentarians who faced allegations of supporting terrorism and whose immunity was suspended in the months following 15 July.
Gençkaya, Ömer Faruk, Umut Gündüz and Damla Cihangir-Tetik, Political Finance and Transparency İstanbul: Transparency International Turkey Chapter, 2016. http://www.seffaflik.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/Siyasetin-Finansman%C4%B1-EN.pdf. (accessed 16 January 2016)
Money, Politics and Transparency, Turkey Report, 2015, https://data.moneypoliticstransparency.org/countries/TR/ (accessed 27 October 2015)
OSCE/ODIHR,Republic of Turkey Constitutional Referendum 16 April 2017, OSCE/ODIHR Limited Referendum Observation Mission Final Report, http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/turkey/324816?download=true (accessed 1 November 2017)
Bianet, “TV’de Referandum Dağılımı: Erdoğan 53 Saat, CHP 17 Saat, HDP 33 Dakika,” https://bianet.org/bianet/medya/184761-tv-de-referandum-dagilimi-erdogan-53-saat-chp-17-saat-hdp-33-dakika (accessed 1 November 2017)
OSCE/ODIHR, Republic of Turkey Presidential Election 10 August 2014 OSCE/ODIHR Needs Assessment Mission Report, 7-9 May 2014, http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/turkey/119439?download=true
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