Access to Information


To what extent are the media independent from government?

Public and private media are independent from government influence; their independence is institutionally protected and fully respected by the incumbent government.
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 the country was ranked third in 2017 and fourth in 2018, it climbed to second place in 2019, trailing behind Norway. 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 avoided interfering with press freedoms, although a few exceptions to this rule have occurred in recent years.

News coverage of the coronavirus crisis has been credible and trustworthy. No news organization has published any reports whose accuracy could be questioned. On the contrary, news media organizations have proactively debunked coronavirus-related misinformation that has circulated on social media platforms (Heikkilä 2020).
“Reporters without Borders, Finland,”
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 Swedish Freedom of the Press Act, first enacted in 1766 (and thus the world’s oldest) is underpinned by five principles: the freedom to express one’s thoughts in print, the freedom to disseminate printed matter accompanied by free access to this material, free access to official information, and the right of anonymity. A document is categorized as official if received or created by a public authority. Such documents are freely available unless they are classified as secret (Larsson and Bäck 2008).

Contact information for public servants working for municipalities or regions is readily available online, enabling citizens to communicate with them to offer questions, suggestions or complaints. Several municipalities have implemented electronic participation procedures such as citizen dialogues, electronic notice boards or citizen chats (Norén Bretzer 2010).

During the last few years, the media have expressed frustration with government departments for not being forthcoming in providing public documents to the media or individual citizens (Andersson et al., 2018). Government departments increasingly use information as a strategic means of communication. Nevertheless, the Swedish government and administration still meet high standards of transparency and access to information. This is reflected in, for example, the Reporters Without Borders’ 2021 World Press Freedom Index, in which Sweden is ranked third, after Norway and Finland.
Andersson, Ulrika, Anders Carlander, Elina Lindgren and Maria Oskarson (eds.) 2018. “Sprickor i Fasaden.” Gothenburg: The SOM Institute.

Larsson, Torbjörn and Henry Bäck. 2008. “Governing and Governance in Sweden.” Malmö: Studentlitteratur.

Norén Bretzer, Ylva. 2010. “Sveriges Politiska System.” Malmö: Studentlitteratur.

Reporters Without Borders. 2021. “World Press Freedom Index, 2021.”
The only publicly owned media organization in Canada at the national level is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC)/Société Radio-Canada (SRC), which runs radio and television stations. CBC/SRC is a Crown corporation operating at arm’s-length from the federal government as specified in the 1991 Broadcasting Act. Its programming features a variety of political views. Of course, privately owned media organizations can also take any political position they wish. All media is regulated by an independent body, the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC), without overt political influence.
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. Denmark ranks 4th out of 180 countries in the Global Press Freedom Index for 2021. Recently, a report from Roskilde University found that a strong norm of non-interference and acceptance of media independence helps media freedom thrive in Denmark (Schrøder et al 2021)

The penal code sets three limits to the freedom of speech: libel, blasphemy and racism. The independent courts interpret the limits of these exceptions.

Public media outlets (Denmark’s Radio and TV2) are required by law to meet diversity and fairness criteria in their programming. All political parties planning to take part in elections 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 decline in newspapers has led to a concentration of 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 opportunity to distribute pamphlets and posters. Finances can be a limiting factor, however, as larger parties have more money to spend on campaigns than do smaller parties.
Schrøder, K. C., Blach-Ørsten, M., & Eberholst, M. K. (2021). Denmark. I N. Newman, R. Fletcher, A. Schulz, S. Andi, C. T. Robertson, & R. K. Nielsen (red.), Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2021 (s. 74-75). Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism.

Reporters Without Borders (

Reporters Without Borders (

Straffeloven [The Penal Code],

Zahle Henrik, 2001, Dansk Forfatningsret 1
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 five represent different political parties that hold seats in the national parliament. Members of the ERR Council are elected for five years (members of parliament until the next parliamentary elections).

Private audiovisual media services and radio services are regulated under the Media Services Act (2010), which defines procedures and principles for service provision. A series of amendments in 2022 have clarified principles concerning the freedom to publish content and political balance during election campaigns. All providers of radio and TV services must apply for a fixed-term license in Consumer Protection and Technical Regulatory Authority.

Issuing private newspapers and magazines is not specifically regulated, they operate on free market principles. An umbrella organization, Eesti Meediaettevõtete Liit, represents the interests of its members and advocates policymaking initiatives.

Globally, Estonia has been ranked high on the World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders for several years. In 2019, Estonia ranked 11 out of 180 countries. But a year later when EKRE, a populist right wing party, was in the governing coalition (2019–2021), Estonia dropped to 15th place in the rankings. On several occasions, government ministers refused to provide information to journalists at press conferences without giving any valid reason. Although the sitting government (in power since 26 January 2021) does not include the EKRE, limiting access to information and avoiding clear responses to journalists’ questions has remained a problem.
Reporters without Borders, RWB 2021. (accessed 07.01.2022)
Media services act 2010.
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.
Print media, which are largely self-regulated, are broadly independent of political interference. The German Press Council is tasked with protecting freedom of the press. However, the latent economic crisis of newspapers and publishing houses may slowly but steadily undermine media pluralism. In the World Press Freedom Index published in 2021, Germany was ranked 13th out of 180 countries, showing only minor fluctuations in the years before.

The Interstate Treaty on the Modernization of Media (Medienstaatsvertrag) 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. The relationship between public authorities and private media can be seen as unproblematic.

In 2020, the Federal German Constitutional Court, in its ruling on the BND Law, which governs the activities of the country’s foreign intelligence agency BND, has strengthened the protection of foreign journalists against surveillance. The court has thus brought an end to the previous approach to mass surveillance, in which the secret service was essentially unconstrained in its mass surveillance of non-Germans, including foreign journalists.
World Press Freedom Index 2021, (accessed: 13 January 2022).
In Ireland, public and private media are independent of government. RTÉ, the state-owned broadcasting company, is supported by fees from a mandatory annual television 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 the ombudsman, citizens have access to an independent press complaints mechanism, which 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 an 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. In 2014, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that The Irish Times had to pay its own costs in a case on this issue that the newspaper filed against the state (MacCormaic, 2014). 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.”

Ireland ranked sixth in the 2022 Press Freedom Index produced by Reporters without Borders, a reflection of the openness and plurality that characterize the Irish media landscape.
MacCormaic, R. (2014) European court rules against ‘Irish Times’ on Mahon tribunal case costs, The Irish Times, 24 October, available at:

Rafter, K. (2018), ‘The Media and Politics,’ in Politics in the Republic of Ireland (6th edition, Routledge).
Reporters without Borders (2022), ‘Ireland’,
Lithuania’s media is 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’ 2021 Press Freedom Index, Lithuania was ranked 28th out of 180 countries on the issue of press freedom, an increase of two positions compared to 2019. Despite this generally positive situation, court decisions and prosecutors’ orders are sometimes a threat to media independence. The parliament 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, but new legislative proposals were later introduced to implement them. 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.

In 2020, the courts ruled in favor of journalists’ rights to access information in an important case. The Skvernelis government had refused to provide information about a government meeting, and had deleted the recordings. “This set a very important precedent, giving journalists right of access to all non-classified information,” wrote Reporters Without Borders about the case.

During the pandemic, the state provided financial assistance to the media, but according to Reporters Without Borders, this aid “was not distributed fairly and transparently.” In addition, the group said, “hospitals, municipal councils, courts and other state institutions restricted journalists’ access to information” during the pandemic.
New Zealand
New Zealand performs well in terms of media independence. In the 2021 World Press Freedom Index – published by Reporters Without Borders – New Zealand is ranked eighth, up one place compared to 2020. The report notes that the media’s “independence and pluralism are often undermined by the profit imperative of media groups trying to cut costs to the detriment of good journalism” (Reporters Without Borders 2021). However, the media is considered to be free from political pressure and intervention. This assessment also applies to state-owned broadcast networks: Television New Zealand (TVNZ) and Radio New Zealand (RNZ). Despite being identified as a public broadcaster, TVNZ is fully commercially funded. The question of whether to make TVNZ non-commercial or steer it toward a more public service-oriented role keeps coming up in the political debate. The two largest print and online media providers, NZME and Stuff Ltd., have sought to merge, but this was twice blocked by the Commerce Commission, which cited concerns about the effects on democracy in justifying its decision (Pullar-Strecker 2018). In mid-2020, Stuff was sold by its parent company, Nine Entertainment, to the organization’s management for $1 (Rutherford 2020).
Pullar-Strecker (2018) “Court of Appeal explains decision to decline media merger.” Stuff.

Reporters Without Borders (2021) New Zealand: Press freedom threatened by business imperatives.

Rutherford (2020) “Stuff sold for $1 to CEO Sinead Boucher by Nine Entertainment.” New Zealand Herald.
Media market and media consumption behaviors are rapidly changing in a country featuring the widespread use of digital media. The dominant TV and radio channel is the state-owned Norwegian Broadcasting Cooperation (NRK). It is a public service channel, financed by public grants set by the parliament. One national, commercially financed private TV channel receives financial compensation for producing a broad range of content, a condition that is anchored in an agreement with the government. In addition, several broadcasters operate from other countries. Aside from commercials for tobacco, alcohol and gambling, and commercials directed at children, which are banned, there are no restrictions on content.

The state-owned broadcaster (NRK) is organized in a way that ensures considerable autonomy. It is independent in all aspects of editorial policy, and the government does not intervene in the organization’s daily operations or editorial decisions. The head of NRK reports to a board of directors. Board members are appointed by the government. A separate 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 all privately owned. The freedom of the press is explicitly guaranteed in the constitution; the article addressing press freedoms was amended and strengthened with a constitutional amendment in 2004. In Norway there is a historical tradition of two or more local newspapers, often representing different political views. In order to maintain this pluralism, the state provides financial support for the smaller newspapers through unconditional grants.

All TV channels and media outlets have developed digital platforms. Increased numbers of 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 platforms. 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 diversified and national media increasingly competes with international digital news sources.
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.
Since 2014, journalists reporting on (illegal) financial activities face up to three years in prison if they use information that violates bank secrecy regulations. Hence, no Swiss journalists took part in the “Suisse Secrets” investigations (NZZ 2022).
The Swiss government subsidizes media in various ways. It subsidizes delivery of subscribed daily and weekly newspapers, as well as of club and association magazines, so that all parts of the country and all language regions can be covered by the media. This applies in particular to daily newspapers in sparsely populated regions. Likewise, private local radio and regional television receive money from the government. More far-reaching subsidies were rejected in a recent popular vote on 13 February 2022. However, the government has no means to influence the contents of these media. To the best of our knowledge, there have been no attempts to use these subsidies to influence the work of journalists. Likewise, no scandals or conflicts have become public regarding the government’s choice of board members of the quasi-public media organizations.
NZZ 2022: Suisse Secrets: Datenleck bei der Credit Suisse, available at
The incumbent government largely respects the independence of media. However, there are occasional attempts to exert influence.
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.
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. In its last edition (2017), 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 stated that the level of violence and harassment faced by journalists covering protests had significantly decreased since then. 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.” However, in the context of the social unrest that began in October 2019, repression against reporters was observed to increase, another phenomenon that was publicly denounced.

The latest Press Freedom Index 2021, published by the international NGO Reporters Without Borders, ranked Chile at 54th place out of 180 countries, a drop of three places compared to the previous year. 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, a fact also highlighted by the latest Press Freedom Index. The presidency of Piñera, a successful entrepreneur, was more market friendly, and was consequently closer to business and media interests.
Freedom House, Freedom of the Press Index 2017,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.

Reporters Without Borders, World Press Freedom Index 2021,, last accessed: 13 January 2022.
South Korea
In 2020 and 2021, Korea was ranked 42nd in the World Press Freedom Index – down one spot from 2019, but still ahead of all other Asian countries. However, some issues remain problematic. For example, Reporters without Borders criticizes the system by which managers are appointed at public broadcasters. Editorial independence is also underdeveloped at many outlets. While media freedom is constitutionally guaranteed, government influence and agenda-setting efforts remain strong, especially among TV broadcasters. Most major newspapers outlets have a strong conservative and pro-business bias, making it difficult to have access to diverse opinions. The politicization of media was evident in COVID-19 reporting. Conservative media were quick to blame the ruling liberal administration for its failure to ban visitors from China, which they portrayed as a direct cause of South Korea’s role as the next COVID-19 hotspot after China.

Korea also has very problematic anti-defamation laws that can result in harsh prison terms for those convicted of defamation – even if the statements are true – if the statements are seen as being contrary to “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.”

One critical issue being debated is if and how to control the spread of misinformation, or “fake news.” The Moon administration introduced a revision of the Press Arbitration Act that would allow courts to impose punitive damages on media outlets that publish fake news “by intent or through grave negligence,” or that infringes on aims to push media to be more serious and thorough in fact-checking what they publish. The bill encountered much resistance, including from Human Rights Watch and the United Nations special rapporteur for freedom of expression and opinion. The concern is that the vague definition of “fake news” and the associated hefty penalties could deter journalists from investigating corruption, while increasing censorship and self-censorship. At the same time, there are serious concerns about the increasing incidence of fake news. Between 2009 and 2018, more than 2,000 civil lawsuits were filed seeking compensation for harm caused by fake news. Given the ongoing, contentious debate, the bill has been shelved to allow more discussion and negotiation.

Notwithstanding these controversies, media manipulation seemed much less rampant under the Moon administration than under the two prior conservative administrations of Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak. The Park and Lee administrations were found to have secretly funded pro-government media, blacklisted 10,000 critics and utilized the National Security Agency to conduct online smear campaigns against opponents. These and other actions led to Korea dropping to as low as 70th place on the World Press Freedom Index during the decade prior to Moon’s election. Freedom House also bumped up Korea’s internet freedom score in part due to “less systematic manipulation of online content by the (current) government.”
Choe, Sang-hun. “South Korea Shelves ‘Fake News’ Bill amid International Outcry.” The New York Times, October 1, 2021.
Kim, Hyejin. “How South Korea Is Attempting to Tackle Fake News.” The Diplomat, November 17, 2021.
Freedom House. “Freedom on the Net 2020,”
Freedom House. “Freedom on the Net 2021,”
Reporters Without Borders. “World Press Freedom Index, 2020,”
Reporters Without Borders. “World Press Freedom Index, 2021,”
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 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 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. Occasionally, the government threatens to cut or even abolish the BBC license fee, but so far this has not been put into practice.

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. The United Kingdom is a signatory of the Global Pledge on Media Freedom, launched in 2019. However, a recent assessment by the Paris-based NGO Reporters without Borders (RSF) is critical of the UK record, notably citing curbs on freedom of information requests. As in many other countries, the unfettered freedoms of social media are being challenged.
Media freedom in Austria is guaranteed by the constitution. There is no censorship, 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.

However, the federal and regional governments use public money to promote specific policies during election campaigns and beyond in various print publications. They have even used public money to pay fines for violating established rules. This tradition, which has repeatedly been criticized by the Austrian Court of Audit and by media organizations, has not stopped or been reined in by stricter regulations. This also holds true for the current ÖVP-Green government, which assumed office in early 2020. 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, nevertheless, reduces the credibility and freedom of 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 by international standards. 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 “Ibiza scandal,” which dominated the headlines in 2019, highlighted in a spectacular way the extent to which some political actors (in this case then former FPÖ party leader and Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache) consider the media a territory potentially “up for grabs” by big money and media journalists as “prostitutes.” However, while this case was unprecedented and led to the downfall of the ÖVP-FPÖ government in the same year, highly problematic attempts to influence media reporting by using public money have continued. In fact, accusations that then ÖVP party leader Sebastian Kurz had used public money to influence media reporting on the 2017 electoral campaign in a highly improper way (including the publication of “fake surveys” to his own and his party’s benefit) eventually became one of the major factors prompting Kurz’s resignation from all political offices in late 2021.

While many observers considered the period of the ÖVP-FPÖ government to be rock bottom for media freedom from government intervention (with unusually aggressive attacks by the FPÖ on the ORF for being “not objective”), the overall situation has not changed much for the better under the new ÖVP-Green government. This can be seen from Austria’s position in international rankings for press freedom. For example, in the Reporters Without Borders ranking, Austria dropped out of the top-12 group in 2019, ranking 16 out of 179 countries. The same source ranked Austria 18th in 2020 and 17th in 2021. However, even this slight improvement for 2021 was owed to deteriorations in other countries, as the 2021 score for Austria indicated a slightly more negative perceived overall state of play.
Obermaier, Frederik & Obermayer, Bastian, “Die Ibiza-Affäre. Innensicht eines Skandals. Wie wir die geheimen Pläne von Rechtspopulisten enttarnten und darüber die österreichische Regierung stürzte.” Köln: Kiepenheuter & Witsch 2019.
The regulatory framework for the press, radio and television guarantees media independence. However, no law exists for digital media.

In practice, attacks against the media and efforts by the government to influence the media continued in 2020 and 2021. The most notable incident took place in October 2020, when President Anastasiades told journalists, “Don’t mention Al Jazeera to me, so that the devil does not take you away!” Media treatment of third-party reports and statements attempts to shield the president and government from criticism. Individual columnists are often critical of the government, but editorial media lines remain “protective.” This may be the result of the government’s efforts to gain favor with the media through appointments to political and other positions.

Legal requirements for launching a publication are minimal. The Press Law 145/1989 is supplemented by self-regulation. Media owners, publishers and the Union of Journalists signed a code of journalistic ethics in 1997, and established a complaints commission composed mostly of media professionals.

RIK, the public broadcaster, is a public entity governed by a board appointed by the Council of Ministers. Appointments to this body are politically motivated and the board lacks media expertise. Interference by both the government and political parties undermines freedom of expression and limits pluralism.

Provisions of EU media directives are the backbone of the law that governs private audiovisual media services. Oversight of commercial media and RIK’s compliance with its public-service mandate is carried out by the Cyprus Radio Television Authority (CRTA). The CRTA has extensive powers and a broadly independent status. However, appointments, made by the Council of Ministers, are often politically motivated rather than based on expertise or competence. The regulatory role of the CRTA has been very limited over the years.

On another level, the attorney general’s constitutional powers to seize newspapers or printed matter constitutes a threat to freedom of expression.
1. President defends gaffe over Al Jazeera ‘gotcha video’, Financial Mirror, 15 October 2020,
2. Reporters without borders, Cyprus, 2021,
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, as well as between legal independence and 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 porous nature of the barrier between the media and the political world, as well as the fact that most daily and weekly newspapers are owned by large business interests. Financial independence from private owners is rare. Most weekly and daily media are owned by moguls wishing to influence public opinion. As an exception, the daily Le Monde newspaper was in September 2019 able to agree with its main stakeholders that the publication’s journalists’ organization would wield veto power if a single investor were to attempt to take a majority share in the company.
Until privatization in 1986, the state had a monopoly over radio and TV broadcasting. Private stations now play a significant role in the media market.

Some politicians in government have repeatedly accused state-run radio and TV (RÚV) of bias against the government in their news reporting, partly because RÚV played an important role in exposing political scandals. 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.

There has been a recent exodus of competent news reporters from Iceland’s state-run TV station (RÚV), an apparent consequence of their exposure of wrongdoing by Iceland’s largest fishing firm, Samherji, in Namibia and elsewhere.

In early 2022, the editorial office of a news magazine (Mannlíf) was burglarized in an attempt to eliminate certain sensitive material from its computer system, the first such recorded incident in Iceland.
Karlsson, Ragnar (2010): Íslenskur fjölmiðlamarkaður. Framboð, fjölbreytni, samkeppni og samþjöppun. (The Icelandic Media Market. Supply, diversity, competition and concern). An overview prepared for the Ministry of Education and Culture.
Israel’s media environment is considered lively and pluralistic, and the media is able to criticize the government. 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.

However, in recent years, Israeli media has been downgraded to partially free by Freedom House. Furthermore, the 2019 Reporters without Borders report stated that Israeli media is free but constrained by military censorship, with Israel ranked 88 out of 180 countries. 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.
Albin, Einat, Ittai Bar-Siman-Tov, Aeyal Gross & Tamar Hostovsky-Brandes. (2021). Israel Report, LAC19 Compendium, Lex-Atlas: Covid-19. Retrieved from:

Freedom House: Israel. 2020. Civil liberties. Retrieved from:

Israeli’s Prime Minister Office. 2020. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s press briefing after consulting on the coronavirus subject. Retrieved from:

Itonaim Website. 2020. Journalist union court appeal accepted: The Supreme Court exempted journalists from shin-bet tracing. Retrieved from:

Man, Elad and Tehila Shwartz-Altshuler. 2020. “Journalistic work out to be exempt from emergency regulations” the Israeli Democracy Institution. Retrieved from

Persico, Oren. 2020. “State rejects supreme court proposal to exempt journalists from shin-bet corona tracing.” The Seventh Eye. Retrieved from

Persico, Oren. 2020. “The pressure worked.” The Seventh Eye. Retrieved from:

Tausig, Shuki. 2020. “Withholding information, blunt discrimination between reporters and delivering partial information.” The Seventh Eye. Retrieved from:

The Knesset Website. 2020. “Finally approved: shin-bet to be certified to perform cellular tracing on a limited measure for three weeks.” Retrieved from:
Traditionally, parties and governments have 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.

The Renzi government’s reform of RAI increased the powers of the CEO, while reducing the powers of the board, which has typically comprised representatives of the main political parties. This somewhat reduced political parties’ direct influence over RAI, but has opened the door for greater government influence. Under the Draghi government, nominations to senior RAI positions have reflected a stronger merit-based component.

RAI has enjoyed abundant funding, combining a mandatory subscription from every person that owns a TV set and advertising revenue.

While the privately owned Mediaset channels continue to be subject to the political influence of Mediaset’s owner, Berlusconi, the increasing importance of other channels has balanced things out.

As for 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.
Private media are generally free from direct government influence. Licensing and regulatory regimes are politically neutral and generally do not create a risk of inappropriate political interference. However, in the past, private media ownership structure and the media working environment have enabled actors associated with the government to influence editorial decisions.

In 2017, leaked transcripts of conversations between Latvia’s three “oligarchs” revealed the presence of political influence in Diena, the major daily newspaper, and in public television. These figures holding these conversations observed that public radio remains impervious to outside political influence.

The National Broadcasting Council (Nacionālā elektronisko plašsaziņas līdzekļu padome, NEPLP) has previously been criticized for violating the independence of public broadcasting after making swift, poorly substantiated changes in the leadership ranks of the public radio and television services. In 2019, the chairwoman of the National Electronic Mass Media Council resigned as a result. The council has similarly been criticized for being subject to political influence and susceptible to conflicts of interest, as there was no separation between the specific task of overseeing the public media services, and that of regulating the media industry as a whole.
After four years of draft law development, a new Law on Public Electronic Media was adopted in 2020, intended to address these and other challenges regarding the media environment in Latvia.

The law provides for the establishment of a new council – the Public Electronic Media Council (Sabiedrisko elektronisko plašsaziņas līdzekļu padome, SEPLP) – which is intended to function as an independent autonomous body representing the public interest in the public electronic media sector. SEPLP will lead public procurement efforts and control their execution, but will not have the right to interfere in the specific editorial choices of the public service media.

The new law also creates a Media Ombudsman to monitor the public electronic media services’ compliance with their statutory purpose and operating principles, codes of ethics, and editorial guidelines. The Ombudsman will also have the right to initiate the dismissal of an SEPLP member or the council as a whole if the council member’s actions or omissions pose a threat to the editorial independence of the public media.

Overall, these developments are welcome and timely, and should be viewed as improvements in the quality of public media in Latvia, as they draw a clearer distinction between political influence and media oversight. The new law eliminates the conflicts of interest that have existed for years in the NEPLP, separating the supervision of public media from the functions of the regulator of the entire industry.
1. Law on Public Electronic Mass Media and Administration Thereof (2021) Available at:, Last accessed: 10.01.2022.

2. Rožukalne, A. (2016) Monitoring Risks for Media Pluralism in the EU and Beyond: Latvia, Available at: owed=y, Last assessed: Last accessed: 10.01.2022.

3. Official Gazette ‘Latvijas Vestnesis’ (2020) New Law on Public Media Management, Available (in Latvian):, Last accessed: 10.01.2022.
Freedom of the press and the protection of sources is guaranteed by the constitution and a broad legislative framework, and both are generally respected in practice. The Chamber of Deputies, alongside the Press Council of Luxembourg and a number of regulatory bodies including the Independent Luxembourg Broadcasting Authority (ALIA) are involved in ensuring the independence of media. The Press Council, which is a non-governmental association with a good reputation for fairness and integrity, seeks to guarantee the freedom and the quality of the news media, and to improve their accountability. It is also the guardian of the code of ethics for professional journalists, and has the capacity to receive complaints from the public and give its opinion on specific grievances, but lacks coercive power.

In Luxembourg, each political party once had an affiliated newspaper. Although those affiliations ended in 2010, it can be noted that some perceived affinities still persist. Nevertheless, the media operate independently and journalists enjoy a great degree of freedom with respect to the government and the political class. In the 2021 World Press Freedom Index, Luxembourg fell from 17th to 20th place among 180 countries. Early in January 2022, the Luxembourg Association of Professional Journalists (ALJP) appealed to the authorities to protect journalists who have received death threats, mainly originating from militant anti-vaccination campaigners. The Media and Communication Minister strongly condemned these acts, saying that “where there is no independent reporting, human rights are violated.” The issue is also under discussion in the Chamber of Deputies. Although the government intend to legislate on this subject, such activities are not currently penalized by the existing legal framework.
“Conseil de Presse Luxembourg.” Accessed 26 April 2022

“Journalists association issues appeal following death threats “. RTL Today (07 January 2022). Accessed 14 January 2022.

“Freedom in the world: Luxembourg 2021.” Freedom House (2021). Accessed 14 January 2022.
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.
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. 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.

Both in his presidential campaign and as president, Trump threatened news organizations in various ways for their critical coverage of him, which he dismisses as “fake news.” He persistently attacked the mainstream media, falsely accusing them of corruption and dishonesty, referring to them as “enemies of people.” Yet, the vast majority of the news media were not intimidated by Trump’s attacks or threats, which became increasingly ceaseless over time. Although President Biden has moved away from the negative rhetoric of his predecessor about news organizations, many Republicans remain convinced most of these organizations are biased against them.
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 has mainly been restricted to material of a violent or sexual nature. However, there are 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.

Various pieces of recently passed legislation also impinge on media freedom. 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 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. Further, the Data Retention Act makes it almost impossible for journalists to protect government sources; the Foreign Fighters Act potentially criminalizes stories covering militant extremists; and the most recently passed measure, the Foreign Interference and Espionage Act, significantly broadens the scope of information defined as “classified.”

Recent events have shown that the government is prepared to use these laws to restrict media freedom. Federal police raids on journalists’ homes and media offices have clearly been driven by political motives rather than by national-security concerns. This has given rise to a concerted campaign by journalists and media organizations for changes to legislation that would protect the media and whistleblowers, with proponents arguing that the country’s democratic functioning is at stake. In response to raids on a journalist’s home and the offices of the ABC, Australian newspapers appeared with blackened front pages in October 2019.
Czechia was long characterized by a high degree of media freedom, partially due to the independence of the public media, but also because foreign media owners did not exercise any visible influence over the content and coverage of the private media. However, the replacement of foreign owners by domestic oligarchs and the capture of much of the Czech media market by Andrej Babiš, prime minister from the end of 2017 to the end of 2021, have reduced media freedom. Babiš has used his media power to support his political position and to denigrate opponents. The independence of the public media has been questioned given the controversial nominations and appointments to the councils supervising the public broadcaster Czech Televion (ČT), the country’s most trusted news source, Czech Radio (ČR) and the Czech news agency (ČTK). In December 2021, hundreds of ČR employees signed a petition against the new director for news given fears of undue influence. The candidate had a public track record of manipulating media coverage of the “refugee crisis” in her prior job as head of news at a private TV channel. After several days of employee and public pressure, the director of ČR withdrew the controversial nomination. Prime Minister Babiš and President Zeman have repeatedly criticized the public media for their alleged bias, thereby showing a lack of respect for media freedoms. Just before the parliamentary elections in October 2021, Babiš banned a group of journalists from Czech and foreign media outlets from attending his press conference with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán (Boková 2021).
Boková, T. (2021): Babiš’s Media: The Erosion of Freedom of Press in Czechia, in: VerfBlog, October 15 (, DOI: 10.17176/20211016-045233-0).
In 2020 and 2021, owing to the COVID-19 public health crisis, there was a further decline in the circulation of printed media, while a reduction in advertising has strained Greece’s media sector. These developments have made media outlets more susceptible to government influence.

After the COVID-19 outbreak in early 2020, the Greek government disbursed €20 million to print and electronic media to carry public health messages, such as the “Stay at Home” campaign during the first lockdown of that year. The government was accused of allocating the aforementioned amount in a discriminatory fashion and withholding information on the list of funding recipients. It made the relevant information public with a few months delay in July 2020. After that disclosure, it turned out that in some cases (mainly news websites) the allocation of funds had relied on political or unclear criteria, although opposition outlets had received funds. Nevertheless, most private mass media held a generally responsible stance on the COVID-19 pandemic, promoting vaccination.

Journalists were sometimes subject to mistreatment, particularly while attempting to cover protests or report on migration issues. For example, German and Italian media teams were temporarily detained by police on the islands of Lesbos and Samos. The European Commission flagged concerns about attacks and threats against journalists in Greece in its July 2021 Rule of Law Report, in particular the killing of Greek investigative journalist Giorgos Karaivaz.

In late 2021, the Greek parliament approved an amendment to the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, which extended the previous definition of “false information” and reinforced the relevant penalties. The new regulations, which include the possibility of prison sentences for offenders, provoked much criticism.

The public broadcaster’s performance improved after the government turnover of July 2019, even though the journalist appointed as head of the broadcaster in August 2019 was a close associate of the new prime minister (the leader of New Democracy, Kyriakos Mitsotakis). To sum up, in 2020–2021, the government largely respected media autonomy, although it made occasional efforts to influence them.
European Commission, Rule of Law Report, July 2021 (

Freedom House, Freedom in the World 2021, Greece (

Reporters without Borders, “New Greek law against disinformation endangers press freedom,” December 1, 2021 (
Private media operates free from government interference. Mechanisms exist to ensure that state media operate independently from government interference. Since 2014, we have witnessed further progress on this issue. The prime minister appoints all the directors of the State Media Board, as well as all the members of its editorial board. In Malta, media independence more generally is influenced by who owns a given media outlet, as well as the source of its revenues. In many cases, media organizations depend on commercial and public expenditures for these revenues. COVID-19 has made this more acute. Furthermore, journalists in all media often display a clear party preference close to that of the media organization’s owner, whether the outlet is owned by a party or not. This, rather than government interference, is the primary reason that Malta’s media suffers from a lack of public trust. Eurobarometer surveys have consistently shown that less than a quarter of respondents trust local media. By contrast, trust in the government has wavered between 52% and 58%. Malta’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index fell to 81st, with Malta characterized as problematic. The following issues were highlighted: the use of defamation lawsuits to target journalists; and a media climate deeply divided as a result of political party ownership of media outlets, which stifles debate and encourages propaganda. The situation was further compromised during the COVID-19 crisis through the opaque allocation of state funds to independent media. This ranking has been influenced by the murder of journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia. But this was an exceptional, tragic event. Recent events, especially the failure of the courts to stop the publication of evidence given behind closed doors or which the courts had specifically banned from publication, demonstrate the power that the press enjoys in Malta. Government does attempt to influence private media, however, to what extent and how successfully remains speculative. According to the 2021 Malta Media Pluralism Monitor, the protection of freedom of expression indicator receives a relatively low risk score of 28%, although it is up four percentage points from the MPM2020. The protection of the right to information indicator received a medium risk score of 61%, which is on the higher end of this spectrum and up 13 percentage points from the MPM2020. The journalistic profession, standards and protection indicator received a medium risk score of 36%, down four percentage points from the previous MPM (MPM 2020, 40%). The independence and the effectiveness of the media authority indicator received a low risk score of 28%, down nine percentage points from the previous MPM (MPM 2020, 37%). Lovin-Malta filed a court case in 2021 to determine whether propaganda on political party TV stations should be declared unconstitutional.

Recent amendments to the press laws have abolished criminal libel, introduced the concept of mediation, and banned the filing of multiple libel lawsuits based on the same journalistic report. At the time, the OSCE welcomed the changes, but offered additional recommendations, noting that a more balanced approach is needed with regard to the defense of truth. In 2021, the government produced six draft acts, and appointed a commission of experts to review and report on these drafts.

Although state and party-related activities dominate the media, the reality of media diversity and a recent increase in competition, notably because of online portals, ensure that the system is essentially pluralist and that a range of opinions remain available.
However, there have been calls for reform of the public broadcasting service in order to ensure transparency and objectivity. Government pressure on media houses in election years is increasing. One such case is that of the General Workers Union (GWU), which is closely aligned with the government. The union has suspended the chief editor of its newspapers it is alleged after he refused to not publish certain stories that were said to paint the government in a bad light.
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
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
Centre of Media Pluralism and Media Freedom: country report Malta 2021
Spain has a diverse and free media. Though the approval of new laws, which can constrain media freedom, combined with Spain’s struggling economy have created difficulties for journalists in recent years. Reporters Without Borders reported on physical violence against journalists by both police and demonstrators, due above all to the conflict over Catalan separatist demands and the rise of the far-right Vox party. Moreover, the climate of polarization is eroding society’s confidence in journalists and fueling hate speech against the media. But journalists have also criticized the lack of government transparency. The lack of transparency was exacerbated by the state of alarm during the first few months of the pandemic. Moreover, there is a high degree of public concern about the dissemination of false information. Spain was ranked 29th in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index.

Under the new multiparty scenario, all parties 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, a provisional “sole administrator” was appointed to direct the public broadcasting group. In February 2021, the PSOE and PP reached an agreement to renew the Board of Directors of RTVE. Under the terms of this agreement, the Congress of Deputies elected six members of the board, and the Senate four members. A new president was appointed in March 2021.

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. In Madrid, the regional government passed a law in 2021 to strengthen the control over the channel’s board. In Catalonia there was an agreement among the main parties at the end of the year to appoint a new director (with a partisan bias), after three years of delay.

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.
Reporters without borders (2021), World Press Freedom Index.
The freedoms of the press/media and of expression are formally guaranteed by the constitution (Article 7). The Reporters Without Borders Press Freedom Index 2021 ranked the Netherlands at sixth place, one rank lower than previously. The somewhat lower ranking results from the fact that despite accepting an Open Government Law in both houses of parliament in 2021, the government, hampered by the coronavirus crisis, hasn’t improved the media’s access to state-held information, with the result that documents requested by journalists often arrive late and are incomplete, with entire pages or lengthy passages erased or redacted. Mass data collection by the government has sometimes violated the privacy of journalists and their right to protect their sources.

Even parliament has fallen victim to active blocking of access to government information. According to one high-profile professor of public law, over the last decade the Rutte governments have incompletely or misinformed parliament 43 times; that is, about 10 times more frequently than the governments in power during the 2001-2010 period. Paradoxically, in the follow-up to the childcare benefits scandal, where for several years the tax authorities and the government actively blocked information to the press and to parliament, SMS messages by the prime minister were made public for the very first time.

Another factor is that right-wing populist politicians attack the mainstream media and journalists as messengers of so-called fake news and as “enemies of the people,” questioning the legitimacy of the traditional media and restricting targeted journalists’ access to political meetings. In this way, they legitimize and encourage interference with the work of journalists. Such sometimes violent interference has become much more common, making public broadcasting organizations remove logos from their equipment. Some individual journalists from local media have been visited at their homes by these people, with attackers throwing stones through windows or inserting Molotov cocktails into their houses through mailboxes. As a consequence, Dutch journalists practice precautionary self-censorship on sensitive issues such as immigration, race, Islam and national culture and character. However, by international standards, journalists in the Netherlands are free from governmental interference. For example, their right to protect their sources is usually formally upheld even when called upon as witnesses in criminal cases.

Public-broadcast programming is produced by a variety of civil organizations, some reflecting political and/or religious denominations with roots in the era of pillarization, others representing more contemporary societal and cultural 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 government-nominated supervisory board, which tests and allocates broadcasting time. This board has never functioned well, due to internal disagreements. 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 has led to blurred boundaries between “information” and “infotainment.” Critics have argued that younger people and non-Dutch population groups are not well served by the public broadcasting system. Currently, public broadcasting is both privately funded through advertisements and publicly funded. Regional broadcasters have been subject to budget cuts, which forces them to collaborate to survive. Influenced by a new EU guideline, a new more comprehensive Media Law has sought to harmonize regulations for commercial advertising through traditional linear public and private broadcasting through radio and TV, and those for non-linear, digital platforms and streaming services like YouTube and Netflix.
Reporters Without Borders, 2021. Netherlands

NRC, Nieber, 18 January 2021. ‘Overheid deelt liever geen stukken’

NRC, De Koning en Hofman, 17 June 2021. Voor het eerst sms’jes van premier Rutte openbaar gemaakt.

Trouw, Julen, 5 October 2021. Wet Open Overheid eindelijk aangenomen, komt nieuwe bestuurscultuur ook een stapje dichterbij?

W. Voermans, 2021. Het land moet bestuurd worden. Machiavelli in de polder, pp. 175-6
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.
The murder of investigative journalist Ján Kuciak and his fiancée Martina Kušnírová in February 2018 has drawn public attention to the issues of media freedom and independence from state intervention and, at the same time, highlighted the limits to media freedom in Slovakia. The Pellegrini government did little to improve the situation. A law passed in September 2019 restored the right to reply, giving politicians the right to receive a reply or have a correction published. If a media outlet fails to fulfill this right, it could be fined up to €5,000. A right to reply was originally introduced by the first government of Robert Fico in 2008, but then abolished by the Radičová government in 2011 following widespread domestic and international criticism of the resulting intimidation of journalists.

Under the new center-right government, the relationship between the government and the media has been less tense. The new government has refrained from the verbal attacks on independent journalists characteristic of its predecessors and has announced to improve the institutional protection of media freedom. With some delay, it has prepared a number of amendments to media legislation and the criminal code. However, progress so far has been limited (Reporters without Borders 2021). Contrary to initial announcements, the governing coalition has not agreed on changes that would have reduced the grip of the parliament on the selection of the director-general of the public radio and TV broadcaster RTVS. While the government has proposed reducing the prison sentence for defamation from eight years to one, it has also suggested criminalizing the spreading of disinformation and promoting hoaxes. These suggestions, which have resembled controversial laws in Hungary, have been criticized by the journalistic community, NGOs and even parts of the governing coalition for opening the way to arbitrary prosecutions of journalists and for encouraging self-censorship.
Reporters without Borders (2021): Slovakia must be more ambitious in its support for media independence, December 16 (
Media freedom in Croatia is limited. Political influence on public media is still fairly strong, as is the influence of private owners on private media. 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. Media freedom has also suffered from the large number of defamation lawsuits against journalists and media. In January 2019, there were more than 1,000 ongoing trials against Croatian journalists or media outlets. Some of them have been brought to the courts by the public broadcaster HRT, which has been unique in suing its own journalists, other media outlets and professional journalist associations. As a result, many Croatian journalists who investigate corruption, organized crime or war crimes are often subject to harassment campaigns. The government has weakened independent media by delaying the allocation of EU funding for non-profit media. Even after the fall of Balkan tycoon Ivica Todorić in 2017, there are still many cases of powerful businesspeople using advertising to hinder media freedom. In 2019 and 2020, however, a new generation of investigative journalists have brought a series of scandals involving public officials to the fore, which have resulted in several high-profile resignations.

In November 2021, the president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association (HND), Hrvoje Zovko paid a visit to independent media organizations in Serbia. During the trip, he noted that the media in Croatia face major problems, such as the large number of lawsuits filed against journalists (making Croatia one of the worst locales Europe in this regard), various forms of pressure exerted particularly on local media, and the significant influence by political forces on the public media services (the Croatian Radio-Television, HRT). However, he added that the situation in Croatia is incomparably better than in Serbia, Hungary, or Bosnia and Herzegovina.
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 primary public broadcasting service, has long enjoyed substantial freedom. However, the Abe-led government (2012-2020) pursued a more heavy-handed approach, 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.

Apparently bowing to government pressure, Japan’s largest English-language newspaper, The Japan Times, announced in November 2018 that it would no longer refer to “forced laborers,” but would instead use the term “wartime laborers.” It also said it would revise its definition of “comfort women,” no longer defining these as women “forced” to provide sex to the Japanese army during the war effort, but rather as “women who worked in brothels, including women who did so against their will.” Some major Japanese-language newspapers including the Asahi shimbun, the Mainichi shimbun and the Tokyo shimbun have to date withstood pressure to engage in this form of “language revisionism.” Japan’s ranking in the World Press Freedom Index has plummeted in recent years, from 22nd place in 2013 to 67th in 2021, the lowest rank among G-7 members.

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 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. The UN special rapporteur on the freedom of expression expressed in 2017 serious concerns, stating that the Act could erode media freedoms and stifle public debate.

The Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications (MIC) formed a Platform Services Study Group in 2018 to discuss measures combating misinformation (“fake news”) on social and possibly other forms of media.
Arielle Busetto, Press Freedom in Japan: When A Discussion Isn’t A Discussion, Japan Forward, 10 January 2019,

Daisuke Nakai, The Japanese Media in flux: Watchdog or Fake News?, Forum Report 013, Suntory Foundation, April 2018, download from

Umeda, Sayuri, Initiatives to Counter Fake News: Japan, Library of Congress (United States) Legal Reports, April 2019,

Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression
on his mission to Japan, UNHRC, 23 June 2017,

Reporters without borders, 2021 World press freedom index,
Officially, freedom of expression is protected and the media is independent from the 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 has become the world’s most deadly country for journalists. According to The Guardian, nine journalists were killed in 2021, and eight in 2020 eight. Other sources mention 14 journalists killed in 2020. Since 2000, at least 138 journalists have been killed, and 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 was ranked at 143rd place out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index 2021.
Reporter ohne Grenzen:
THE GUARDIAN: Two more Mexican journalists killed as reporters condemn worsening violence, 1.11.2021
Articulo 19:
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. (Only five are proposed by political parties). 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 in October 2015, strengthened media freedom by making it clear that an individual disclosing classified information no longer incurs criminal liability. In the period under review, however, there have been reports of political pressure being placed on public and private journalists covering sensitive political issues by both government and opposition representatives. There was attempt by the government to introduce a public media service reform, but it was never submitted to parliamentary procedure, as there was no support for the reform even among the coalition partners. Media freedom has further suffered in the period under review, as the owners of private media exert their influence. Most private media outlets are owned by companies from economic sectors such as construction and rubbish collection. Reporting often seems to be biased, which helps these owners secure public sector procurement contracts, either with right-wing or left-wing governments. There was a long and exhausting stand-off between the government (represented by UKOM, the government communication office) and Slovenian Press Agency (STA) over the details of the agency’s public service tasks, which was fueled by the prime minister’s rather aggressive comments regarding the media situation on Twitter. This dispute was viewed as an attempt to strengthen the government’s influence over STA, and led to protests from the European Commission and international media advocacy organizations. In November 2021, the directors of UKOM and STA signed a new public service contract and ended the stand-off. During the period under review, both highly polarized political sides tried to create and strengthen their own media system, often via opaque financing and odd business practices. For example, right-wing media have received financial support from Hungary, while left-wing media are connected with private sector oligarchs and sometimes within unknown owners.
STA signs deal on public service with UKOM valid until end of the year, STA, 8 November 2021, available at
In legal terms, media 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 management of the public Bulgarian National Television and Bulgarian National Radio are elected by the Council for Electronic Media.

In practice, however, media independence has been compromised since 2010-2011, a situation that has only worsened during the review period. After a series of well-known investigative electronic-media journalists lost their positions and on-air exposure over the last two years, the public radio’s leading station was pressured into actually shutting down for several hours with the sole purpose of keeping a particular investigative journalist off the air. This journalist had been asking inconvenient questions about the selection procedure for the new prosecutor general in September 2019. This caused a major crisis, and forced the Council for Electronic Media to fire the recently elected executive director of the radio service. In the process, it became clear that the decision to shut down the broadcast was a result of outside pressure by unrevealed persons.

Different governing parties have either sought or tacitly succeeded in restricting media freedoms, particularly during periods of public discontent and protests. The BSP and MRF did so in 2013-2014, and GERB in 2020. In 2021, six alerts concerning attacks and the harassment of journalists were registered on a Council of Europe platform established to protect journalists.

A major development in the media space has been the growth of non-traditional outlets.
During the 2021 elections, many candidates and journalists used public registries and data in their campaigns. The refusals of some public officials to disclose information publicly ended up being challenged in administrative courts, and the caretaker governments did their best to disclose as much information as possible. Access to information thus seems to have improved somewhat.
Access to Information Program (
Council of Europe Platform to promote the protection of journalism and safety of journalists
Since entering office in 2015, the PiS government has intensified its grip on the media (Guzek/ Grzesiok-Horosz 2021). It has transformed the public media into a PiS propaganda mouthpiece and has weakened the remaining independent private media by forcing state-owned enterprises to refrain from placing advertisements in newspapers considered leftist or liberal. Public gas stations and other businesses have been urged not to sell particular newspapers.

In 2020 and 2021, the PiS government launched a number of attempts to further weaken independent media outlets. In December 2020, the state-owned oil company PKN Orlen, led by Daniel Obajtek, a close ally of Jarosław Kaczyński, bought Polska Press for €27 million from the German Verlagsgruppe Passau. The deal included 140 local and regional newspapers, and 500 internet portals with 17.4 million users. PKN Orlen has largely ignored an April 2021 court decision suspending the approval of the purchase by the competition authority UOKiK and has revamped the editorial structures of Polska Press (Klimkiewicz 2022). Two other initiatives of the government have been less successful. In February 2021, it announced the imposition of a “solidarity” tax of up to 15% on the advertising revenues of all TV, radio, print and internet media. Officially justified as an attempt to raise funds for the healthcare system, pandemic challenges and Polish culture, this move was widely perceived as another strike against independent media and stirred massive protests. When the Senate rejected the bill and the junior coalition partner Porozumienie refused to support it, the governing coalition did not follow up on the issue. A second initiative was pursued more persistently by the government. In July 2021, it launched a new attempt to get rid of the U.S.-owned private TV channel TVP. The bill foresaw that media enterprises who are situated outside the European Economic Area should not be allowed to own more than a 49% stake in Polish media. This time the government tried to over-ride the Senate’s rejection and did so violating parliamentary procedures. However, on December 27, President Duda vetoed the bill.

The PiS government’s lack of respect for media independence is also shown by the large number of lawsuits against critical journalists. After the 2020 presidential election, President Duda’s administration temporarily revoked the press passes of several journalists involved in publishing critical articles about him. During pro-government and far-right rallies, the police have done little to protect journalists. After the introduction of a state of emergency at the Polish-Belarussian border in September 2021, journalists were banned from entering the emergency zone.
Guzek, D., A. Grzesiok-Horosz (2021): Political Will and Media Law: A Poland Case Analysis, in: East European Politics and Societies and Cultures, forthcoming (

Klimkiewicz, B. (2022): Orlen’s Takeover of Polska Press: Media Market and Pluralism Issues Are Intertwined. Florence: EUI, Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom ( issues-are-intertwined/).
Overall, Romania enjoys a relatively free media environment and ranks 48 out of 180 countries worldwide regarding press freedom, according to the 2020 Reporters Without Borders Ranking. However, journalists often report subtle obstructions by authorities intended to impede their work and the government exercises outsized influence on the content of media coverage. This was exacerbated during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw a collapse in private advertising revenue around the world, including in Romania. This loss in revenue left private media outlets dependent on government for funding, which, according to the Freedom House 2020 report, presented an opportunity to the authorities to gain editorial access through publicly funded advertising.

Across the country, there have been increasing signs that lawsuits are being strategically used against public participation. For example, politicians, church officials and businessmen with links to the state have sued well-established newsrooms of investigative journalists (e.g., Recorder, RISE and Libertatea) to stifle legitimate criticism through the abuse of existing laws (most notably, defamation).
Prysiazhniuk, M. (2019): Threatened from the Inside: Why State Disinformation Is the Main Concern in Romania. Visegrad Insight, October 22 (

Reporters without Borders (2018): Romania’s press freedom in free fall as its takes over EU presidency, December 29 (
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.
Since Fidesz’s return to power in 2010, media freedom in Hungary has been drastically curtailed (Council of Europe, Commissioner for Human Rights 2021). The government has gradually brought the public and large part of the private media under control. Thriving on government advertising, media outlets are used by the government to influence and deceive public opinion (Bátorfy/ Urbán 2020).

This process has continued during the COVID-19 pandemic. In July 2020, the editor-in-chief of the leading news site, Index, was fired by the outlet’s new owner, who has close links to the government. In September 2020, the government-aligned Media Council revoked the license of Klubradio, the last independent radio station – a decision that was criticized by the European Commission as disproportionate and non-transparent, and consequently incompatible with EU law (European Commission 2021). Media freedom has also been limited by the “fake news paragraph” included in the March 2020 Authorization Act (Polyák 2020). It threatens journalists engaged in producing fake news with a prison sentence of up to five years for scaremongering. While the regulation has not produced the avalanche of cases feared by its critics, it has harmed media freedom by inducing self-censorship. While somehow limiting its scope, the Constitutional Court essentially approved the controversial paragraph in a decision in June 2020. Also in June 2020, the Constitutional Court eventually declared legal a controversial 2018 government decree which prevented the Hungarian Competition Authority from examining the centralization of leadership and financing of about 500 media outlets by KESMA, the Central European Press and Media Foundation, a pro-government media conglomerate.

In 2021, it turned out that the government had used Pegasus spyware to track critical journalists in a number of cases. There were also incidences that some critical journalists were no longer invited to press conferences involving the prime minister or individual ministers. In late 2021, the government dismissed the entire leadership of Mediaworks, the news agency of KESMA, in an attempt to bring pro-government media even further in line before the 2022 parliamentary elections.
Bátorfy, A., A. Urbán (2020): State advertising as an instrument of transformation of the media market in Hungary, in: East European Politics 36(1): 44-65.

Council of Europe, Commissioner for Human Rights (2021): Memorandum on freedom of expression and media freedom in Hungary. CommDH(2021)10, Strasbourg (

European Commission (2021): Media freedom: The Commission calls on Hungary to comply with EU electronic communications rules. Brussels, December 2 (

Polyák, G. (2020): Hungary’s Two Pandemics – COVID-19 and Attacks on Media Freedom. Leipzig: ECPMF (
The constitutional guarantees of freedom of the press and freedom of expression are rarely upheld in practice. The current legal framework governing the media is restrictive, and does not comply with EU standards. The government appoints the general director of the country’s public broadcaster, Turkish Radio, and Television (TRT). By doing that, 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.

Journalists and media organizations critical of the government have faced threats, physical attacks and fines. TV and radio channels have been closed. According to Turkey’s Journalists’ Union, 34 journalists and media workers were in prison as of the close of the review period. Some of the convicted journalists (e.g., Ahmet Altan and Nazlı Ilıcak) were detained during the 2016 to 2018 state of emergency and were released from jail for various reasons, but several were immediately detained again. Additionally, in 2019, monetary fines were imposed 57 times on a large number of radio and TV channels. A total of 24 programs were suspended.

In October 2019, the Radio and Television Supreme Council (RTUK) announced it would silence any voice speaking out against the ongoing military operation in Turkey. The government seems to be taking further steps to undermine the already fragile media freedom. For instance, a new law passed in July 2020, the “Arrangement of Internet Publication and Combating Crimes Committed through These Publication” law, introduced heavy fines and bandwidth restrictions for content producers on the internet that do not comply with the regulations. This is widely perceived as a step toward silencing opposition programming on YouTube.
Turkey’s Journalists’ Union. ’34 journalists jailed in Turkey. December 12, 2021.

European Commission. “Turkey Report 2021. Commission Staff Working Document.” October 19, 2021.
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