Electoral Processes


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

All candidates and parties have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. All major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions.
The access of candidates and parties to media and means of communication is fair in principle, but practical constraints, such as the duration and breadth of a program’s coverage, restrict access for smaller parties and candidates to televised debates and other media appearances. Given the increased impact of such appearances on the electoral outcome, this bias is somewhat problematic from the point of view of fairness and justice. However, the restrictions reflect practical considerations rather than ideological agendas. Access to newspapers and commercial forms of communication is unrestricted, though in practice it is dependent on the economic resources of parties and individual candidates. Candidates are required to report on the sources of their campaign funds. Social media play an increasing role in candidates’ electoral campaigns, as these outlets now attract a growing share of voters. This also means that candidates are less dependent on party organizations and external funding for campaigning. As a consequence of the enhanced role of social media, campaigns are likely to be longer at the same time as candidates are expected to continuously share their opinion on a multitude of issues. Such trends are especially important in Finland, since the country uses an open list proportional system in which the order candidates are elected from the party lists is dependent on the number of personal votes received.
Strandberg, Kim (2012): Sosiaalisen median vallankumous? Ehdokkaat, valitsijat ja sosiaalinen media vuoden 2011 eduskuntavaaleissa. In: S. Borg (ed.), Muutosvaalit 2011, Helsinki: Ministry of Justice, 79-93.
Laakso, Mikko (2017). Sosiaalinen media vaalikampanjoinnissa.
All candidates and all parties have equal opportunities of access to the national media and other means of communication. The equality among political candidates in terms of their access to media is to a large extent safeguarded by the public service rules of the public Swedish Television (SVT) and Sverige Radio (SR), the public radio outlet.

The print media in Sweden is overwhelmingly center-right in its political allegiance and is therefore more likely to cover center-right candidates than candidates from the parties on the political left. However, journalists have a significantly stronger preference for the Green and the Left parties than does the electorate as a whole (Asp, 2012).

In Sweden, as elsewhere in Europe, social media and other new forms of information sharing are increasing. These media are becoming more important for political campaigns. Though the information provided by social and other electronic media is vast and varied, selectivity facilitates a narrower consumption of information than in traditional print media. A recent report found a disconnect in the types of political questions debated in traditional news media vis-à-vis social media. While the economy, the labor market and health were the major issues in the former, migration, equality, law and order, and taxes were more prevalent in the latter (Kantar Sifo 2022).
Asp, Kent. 2012. “Journalistkårens Partisympatier.” in Kent Asp (ed.) “Svenska Journalister 1989-2011.” Gothenburg: JMG. 101-107

Kantar Sifo. 2022. “Mediemätaren.” https://www.kantarsifo.se/tags/mediemataren
Candidates and parties may purchase political advertising in the print media. The only restriction to equal access by candidates and parties to these media outlets relates to resources. In this regard, there is a lack of transparency as political parties and candidates are not required to disclose who is supporting them. In 2017, the Social Democratic Party collected sufficient signatures to force a vote on a constitutional “transparency” article, which will be held in the next few years. The initiative would require that political parties name donors that give more than CHF 10,000. Likewise, if a person spends CHF 100,000 or more on an electoral or a popular campaign, they must name all donors who gave at least CHF 10,000.

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

Media organizations give a fair and balanced opportunity to political actors to present their views and programs, insofar as this does not become simple advertisement. Right-wing politicians sometimes complain that journalists give center-left politicians better access. There is little hard evidence that such a bias exists to any substantial extent. On the other hand, representatives of the Swiss People’s Party have successfully used their economic resources to control quality papers (e.g., temporarily the Basler Zeitung) and they have tried to restrain the country’s leading newspaper, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung.
Denmark is a liberal democracy. According to section 77 of the constitution, freedom of speech is protected: “Any person shall be at liberty to publish his ideas in print, in writing, and in speech, subject to his being held responsible in a court of law. Censorship and other preventive measures shall never again be introduced.” Freedom of speech includes freedom of the press. Denmark ranks 4th out of 180 countries in the Press Freedom Index for 2021.

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

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

Reporters Without Borders, “Press Freedom Index 2019.” https://rsf.org/en/denmark (Accessed 20 February 2022)

Zahle Henrik, 2001, Dansk Forfatningsret 1.
Candidates and political parties have fair and equal access to the public broadcasting and TV networks. Access to advertising on private networks and online, however, depends on the financial resources of the political parties. Therefore, smaller political parties and independent candidates have significantly limited access to mass media. There is no upper limit on electoral campaign expenses, which provides significant advantage to candidates and parties with more abundant financial resources. However, these disparities do not follow a coalition-opposition divide, nor is there discrimination on the basis of racial, ethnic, religious or gender status.

Because of the high internet penetration rate, various web and social media tools are becoming widely used in electoral campaigns, including election portals run by public and private media outlets. While this has so far helped candidates to reach a wider public cheaply, the parties have recently increased their online advertising expenditures.
According to French laws regulating electoral campaigns, all candidates must receive equal treatment in terms of access to public radio and television. Media time allocation is supervised by an ad hoc commission during the official campaign. Granted incumbents may be tempted to use their position to maximize their media visibility before the official start. Private media outlets are not obliged to follow these rules, but except for media outlets that expressly support certain party positions, newspapers and private media tend to fairly allocate media time to candidates, with the exception of marginal candidates who often run with the purpose of obtaining free media access. The paradox of this rule for equal time is that the presidential candidates who are likely to make it to the second round receive the same amount of media time as candidates who represent extremely marginal ideas or interests.
There are generally no media-related regulations at the federal level, but broadcast media are regulated by Länder laws. However The Interstate Treaty on Broadcasting and Telemedia (Rundfunkstaatsvertrag) provides a general framework stipulating requirements of plurality of opinion, balanced coverage for all important political, ideological and social forces, and requires those parties with a list in at least one Länder be granted an “appropriate amount” of broadcasting time. The allocation of airtime is based on each party’s result in the previous general elections (OSCE 2021). For television airtime, the time granted to large parliamentary parties is not allowed to exceed twice the amount offered to smaller parliamentary parties, which in turn receive no more than double the amount of airtime provided to parties currently unrepresented in parliament. While public media networks provide campaigns with airtime free of charge, private media are not allowed to charge airtime fees of more than 35% of what they demand for commercial advertising.

Article 5 of the Political Parties Act (Parteiengesetz, PPA) requires that “where a public authority provides facilities or other public services for use by one party, equal treatment must be accorded to all parties.”

Despite these rules, there is a persistent debate as to whether the media’s tendency to generally focus coverage on the largest parties and, in particular, on government parties is too strong. According to the most recent OSCE report, most observers regard political and election coverage in Germany to be fair and balanced, but some voiced concerns regarding the inequitable access to media and potentially biased coverage (OSCE 2021).
OSCE (2021): Federal Republic of Germany. Elections to the Federal Parliament (Bundestag). 26 September 2021, ODIHR Needs Assessment Mission Report, 22 July.
Incumbent political parties represented either in the national parliament or the European Parliament have equal opportunities for media access. Until 2019, the country’s national public broadcaster (ERT) primarily, if not exclusively, communicated the views of the government, but the news content was much less biased in 2020–2021 than ever before.

Private media are also selective in their reporting and many are sensationalist. Private media owners often change sides, first favoring the government and then the opposition, while selectively highlighting certain issues depending on their business strategies. However, the range of media outlets, from the extreme left to the extreme right, is very wide. Media pluralism is fully developed, even though the quality of information is very debatable. Importantly, during electoral campaigns, candidates and parties enjoy relatively equal opportunities to access the media.
Irish political issues receive widespread and detailed coverage in the press, on radio and on TV. Media coverage – especially on radio and TV – is subject to strict guidelines designed to ensure equity of treatment between the political parties. The state-owned national broadcasting company (RTÉ) allows equal access to all parties that have more than a minimum number of representatives in the outgoing parliament. Some smaller political parties and independent candidates without political representation find it less easy to gain access to the national media. However, any imbalances that may exist at the national level tend to be offset at the local level through coverage by local radio stations and newspapers, which play an important role in political and social discourse in Ireland. Subject to normal public safety and anti-litter regulations, all parties and candidates are free to erect posters in public spaces. There were no significant changes in this area during the review period.

It is worth noting that following legislation in 2009 (the Broadcasting Act), the 2011 election was the first in which RTÉ no longer operated entirely under self-regulation. This legislation meant that the regulation of both private and public broadcasters became vested in a single body, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI).

In 2021, responsibility for broadcasting regulation moved from the former Department of Communications, Climate Action and Environment to the newly formed Department of Media, Tourism, Arts, Culture, Sports and the Gaeltacht. In January 2022, the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill was published. This bill will establish a new regulator made up of the multi-person Media Commission, which will replace the BAI. The commission will be responsible for overseeing the regulation of broadcasting and video on-demand services, and the new regulatory framework for online safety that was created by the bill (DTCAGSP, 2022).

All newspaper groups in Ireland are privately owned commercial operations. Critics have drawn attention to the highly concentrated nature of the Irish media landscape, as Independent News and Media (INM) controls much of the newspaper market (including the regional market), while broadcasting is dominated by RTÉ (Daly, 2019). They also note the extraordinarily high damages that can be awarded in cases of defamation (RSF, 2020). In November 2019, the minister for justice pledged to reform the Defamation Act in early 2020 (DOJ, 2019). The constitution was amended in 2018 to remove the constitutional prohibition against the “publication or utterance of blasphemous matter,” a provision that dated back to the constitution’s introduction in 1937.

Ireland is ranked sixth in the world in the 2022 Press Freedom Index, the annual report published by Reporters without Borders (2022).
Daly, A. (2019) Ireland warned its highly concentrated media ownership is ‘single largest threat to press freedom’, TheJournal.ie, 18 April, available at: https://www.thejournal.ie/press-freedom-index-rsf-ireland-media-ownership-4596375-Apr2019/

DOJ (2019) Minister Flanagan hosts symposium on reform of defamation law, available at: http://www.justice.ie/en/JELR/Pages/PR19000279

DTCAGSP (2022) Publication of the Online Safety and Media Regulation Bill, Department of Tourism, Culture, Arts, Gaeltacht, Sport and Media, 14 January, available at: https://www.gov.ie/en/publication/88404-publication-of-the-online-safety-and-media-regulation-bill/

Rafter, K. (2015), ‘Regulating the Airwaves: How Political Balance is Achieved in Practice in Election News Coverage.’ Irish Political Studies 30:4, 575-594.

Rafter, K. (2018), ‘The Media and Politics,’ in John Coakley and Michael Gallagher (2018, eds) Politics in the Republic of Ireland, 6th edition. Routledge.
RSF (2022), Reporters without Borders – Ireland, available at: https://rsf.org/en/index
RSF (2020) Reporters Without Borders – Ireland, available at : https://rsf.org/en/ireland
The publicly owned media are obliged to provide equal access to all political parties and coalitions. Debate programs on the state-funded Lithuanian Radio and Television are financed by the Central Electoral Commission. The media are also obliged to offer all campaigns the same terms when selling air time for paid campaign advertisements.

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

According to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Lithuania’s media environment in general demonstrated ample plurality of opinion during the 2016 and the 2020 parliamentary elections, with the freedom of expression generally respected. However, in its 2020 election report, the organization noted that “(a)lthough the public broadcaster organized candidate debates, their format did not allow for any substantial discussion that would help voters to make an informed judgment.”

The OSCE similarly concluded that the “media provided extensive coverage, which enabled citizens to make an informed choice” after the country’s 2019 presidential elections. At the same time, the OSCE recommended reviewing the rules governing media conduct during electoral campaigns, with the aim of clearly distinguishing paid political advertising from other forms of campaign coverage. Currently, the vague definition of political advertising leaves space for arbitrary decisions, the organization indicated.

One of the rare recent controversies had to do with attempts in 2018 by the Lithuanian Farmers and Greens Party, which was then in government, to change the oversight of the state-funded Lithuanian Radio and Television. This was viewed by many analysts as an attempt to politicize its activities and influence the content of broadcasting (see also “Media Freedom”).
OSCE/ODIHR Lithuania, Parliamentary Elections, 11 and 25 October 2020: Final Report, see https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/477730
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Final Report on the 2019 presidential election in Lithuania, see https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/433352?download=true
OSCE/ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Report on the 2016 parliamentary elections in Lithuania, see http://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/lithuania/296446.
Historically all of Luxembourg’s daily newspapers have at least some ties to political parties, reflecting the interests of the publications’ owners, and their coverage of election campaigns has tended to be rather biased or partisan. Recent changes are noticeable in this domain. While the Tageblatt is still close to the LSAP and the Zeitung vum Letzebuerger Vollek to the small Luxembourg Communist Party, the Luxembourger Wort, which was always considered to be close to the CSV, has been acquired by the Belgian media company Mediahuis. The Journal, which has close links to the DP, ceased appearing as a daily newspaper and has become an online publication. In addition, to shore up their dwindling readerships, newspapers have adopted a more balanced line in recent years, reducing their political bias, to the benefit of smaller parties and organizations. However, circulation figures continue to drop at all newspapers. At the same time, new journalistic projects are being created, such as Reporter, an online magazine that aims to offer in-depth journalism and has no advertising.

The public radio broadcaster 100,7 is required to offer independent and impartial coverage by its public service mission. The main private broadcaster, RTL Radio Télé Luxembourg, has to commit to balanced reporting as a condition of its concessionary contract with the state of Luxembourg. During election campaigns, the information and press service of the government provides the political parties with airtime and the opportunity to broadcast radio and television ads. Furthermore, both 100,7 and RTL have to hold roundtables with candidates from all party lists.

Until 2019, the government’s Information and Press Service (Service Information et Presse, SIP) was responsible for supervising the coverage of election campaigns among the broadcasters that have a public service mission (radio 100,7 and RTL Radio Télé Luxembourg). However, the Autorité luxembourgeoise indépendante de l’audiovisuel (ALIA) took over this mission during the European election of 2019. On the basis of this experience, the chair of the ALIA has stressed that his body would need increased resources and a clear legal basis to properly carry out its new mission.
“Financial support for professional journalism.” The Government of the Grand Duchy of Luxembourg. (8 July 2021). https://guichet.public.lu/en/entreprises/sectoriel/medias/subside-presse-en-lign e.html. Accessed on 14 January 2021.

“Gebt uns die erforderlichen Mittel.” Luxemburger Wort (4 February 2022). hhttps://www.wort.lu/de/politik/mehr-macht-als-nur-vermitteln-duerfen-61fc3745de135b9236aeea84. Accessed 7 February 2022.
Parties have access to broadcast time on television and radio for political purposes during the official campaign period of two weeks preceding an election. This time is divided equally among the parties, according to the number of candidates they present. Parties need to present lists in at least 25% of electoral districts, and field a total number of candidates equal to at least one-quarter of the total number of possible candidates, to qualify for these broadcasts. These short broadcasts (lasting a maximum of three minutes for each party) air during prime-time, and have a non-negligible audience.

If one considers media access more broadly, access to news programs and political debates is overwhelmingly concentrated on the parties that have parliamentary representation. Television news coverage, which is popular in terms of TV ratings and is the predominant source of information for the Portuguese, is heavily concentrated on them.
The Election Campaign Act, the Broadcasting Act and the Slovak Press Act regulate media conduct during elections and call for equal access to mass media for all candidates. They stipulate that no candidate and party should be favored over any other and that campaign advertising has to be clearly distinguished from other media content. The public broadcaster Radio and Television of Slovakia (RTVS) has to provide the same conditions for all parties and candidates. The campaign for the 2020 parliamentary elections, which started on 5 November 2019 and ended 48 hours before election day, was pluralistic and competitive (OSCE/ ODIHR 2020). While the public media have shown a certain bias in favor of Smer-SD and SNS, Slovakia’s media market has been sufficiently pluralistic to ensure that all candidates and parties have been able to make themselves heard. The OSCE has criticized the appointment procedure for the two bodies that oversee the media conduct during the electoral campaign (Council for Broadcasting and Retransmission (CBR) and RTVS Council) as not sufficiently safeguarding the impartiality and independence of both bodies from political influence. Departing from its own original selection criteria, RTVS invited the candidate of the nationalist, right-wing Slovak National Party (SNS), one of the parties of the coalition governing from 2016 to 2020, to the much-watched final debate of the candidates ahead of the 2020 parliamentary elections.
OSCE/ODIHR (2020): Election Assessment Mission Final Report: Slovak Republic, Parliamentary Elections 29 February 2020. Warsaw (https://www.osce.org/files/f/documents/8/3/452377.pdf).
Candidates and parties have largely equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. The major media outlets provide a fair and balanced coverage of different political positions.
There are no explicit barriers restricting access to the media for any political party or candidate. The media is generally independent, and highly activist. Furthermore, the public broadcasters – the Australian Broadcasting Commission (ABC) and the Special Broadcasting Service (SBS) – are required under the Australian Broadcasting Act to provide balanced coverage. In practice, the two dominant parties attract most coverage and it is somewhat difficult for minor parties to obtain media coverage. For example, the ABC has a practice of providing free airtime to each of the two main parties (Labor and the Liberal-National coalition) during the election campaign, a service not extended to other political parties. Print media is highly concentrated and biased toward the established parties. However, independent and minor-party senators do attract considerable media attention when the governing party does not have a majority in the Senate, and therefore requires their support to pass legislation. In recent decades, this has been the rule rather than the exception.

In terms of advertising, there are no restrictions on expenditures by candidates or parties, although no advertising is permitted in the three days up to and including polling day. Inequity in access to the media through advertising does arguably arise, as the governing party has the capacity to run advertising campaigns that nominally serve to provide information to the public about government policies and programs, but which are in fact primarily conducted to advance the electoral interests of the governing party.
While some national media outlets sometimes demonstrate political orientations, in general there is fair and balanced coverage of election campaigns and parties. Under sections 335, 339 and 343 of the Canada Elections Act, every broadcaster in Canada is required to make a minimum of 390 minutes of airtime during each federal general election available for purchase by registered political parties. The allocation of airtime among the parties is usually based on a formula that takes into account factors such as the party’s percentage of seats in the House of Commons and its percentage of the popular vote in the last general election. The Canadian system is primarily one of paid political advertising; that is, any broadcasting time used before an election has to be paid for. While CBC/Radio-Canada does provide a small amount of free airtime to federal and provincial parties, this does not represent a significant share of political advertising. However, whether or not this situation translates into unequal access is unclear, as campaign spending regulations impose de facto limits on how much parties can actually spend on televised advertising time.

The Canada Elections Act (S.C. 2000,c.9, s.350 (1)-(2)) restricts the amount any “third party” or outside group can spend on political advertising and activites during a normal-length political campaign to CAD 350,000 with no more than CAD 3,000 being spent in any one electoral district. The Act (s. 349.1(1)-(2)) also imposes limits on pre-election spending. In the three-month period before the official start of the campaign period, non-party entities can spend no more than CAD 700,000.
Canada Elections Act, S.C. 2000, c.9, https://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/PDF/E-2.01.pdf
One of the foundation stones of Israeli democracy is its free press and media. As part of this foundation, laws have been passed to ensure equal media access for all candidates and parties. Moreover, the criteria for allocating airtime during election campaigns is impartial: it is not subjected to any kind of arbitrary considerations or determined by the chairman of the Central Elections Committee.

While election broadcasting rights are fair and balanced, achieving equal media representation is a routine challenge. Most notably, minorities often remain under-represented. For example, Arab Israeli interviewees are under-represented in broadcasts by Hebrew media outlets. According to studies of civil society organizations, media coverage of Arab candidates and lists in Hebrew media was relatively low (4.5% and 7.5% of total coverage) during the two elections held in 2019.

In recent years, the number of Jewish-only public opinion surveys has decreased, following criticism waged by the Seventh Eye media watchdog and changes made to the Israel Press Council’s ethical rules. While those surveys sometimes presented as representing the Israeli public opinion, the fact that they exclude Arab Israeli citizens is usually not mentioned.
Hattis Rolef, Susan, Ben Meir, Liat and Zwebner, Sarah, “Party financing and election financing in Israel,” Knesset Research Institute, 21.7.2003 (Hebrew).

Persiko, Oren, “An increase in the number of Arab speakers in election bulletin,” The Seventh Eye, 26.9.2019 (Hebrew):

Persiko, Oren, “On the way down,” The Seventh Eye, 20.8.2019 (Hebrew): https://www.the7eye.org.il/341556

Persiko, Oren, “Mid-2019: 2.7% representation of Arab society, which constitutes about 20% of the population,” The Seventh Eye, 17.7.2019 (Hebrew):

Persisko, Oren, “The right thing,” The Seventh Eye, 1.11.2019 (Hebrew): https://www.the7eye.org.il/349660

Shwartz-Altshuler and Lurie, Guy, “Redesign the Israeli Election Propaganda Arrangements“, Israel democracy institute website 6.4.2015: https://bit.ly/2ziXcKa (Hebrew)

Stern, Itay. “Israeli-Arab Representation on TV Talk Shows Shot Up in 2016”(Hebrew), 02.02.2017, Haaretz: https://www.haaretz.com/israel-news/.premium-1.769065”

Zarchia, Z. “The Constitution Committee has approved to introduce a bill suggesting to cancel the prohibit on election propaganda two months before elections” 11.07.18, Calcalist: https://www.calcalist.co.il/local/articles/0,7340,L-3742130,00.html
A significant portion of television channels are still owned by a single political leader, Silvio Berlusconi, and demonstrate a special favor toward him and his party. Overall, however, the media offers a reasonably fair treatment of all political candidates. The most important national newspapers and privately owned television broadcasters offer fairly equal access to all positions. State television maintains a generally neutral position.

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

As the role of electronic (internet) and social media in political contests continues to grow, politicians and parties can rely increasingly on these new forms of media to reach citizens and voters more directly. This fact makes political players more independent from large media groups and public media.
Access to media for electioneering purposes is regulated by the Public Offices Election Law and basically ensures a well-defined rule set for all candidates. Since 2013, the law has allowed the use of social media such as Twitter in electoral campaigning and provided for a more liberal use of banner advertisements. The use of such campaign-communications tools has varied among parties and candidates. Regulations are in place to prevent abuses such as the use of false online identities.
Diet OKs Bill To Allow Online Election Campaign, Nikkei.com, 19 April 2013

2017 Lower House Election/Parties bet on the web to reach voters, The Japan News by the Yomiuri Shimbun, 16 October 2017, http://the-japan-news.com/news/article/0004006308

Narumi Ota, Abe using star power, social media to appeal to young voters, The Asahi Shimbun, 3 July 2019, http://www.asahi.com/ajw/articles/AJ201907030064.html

Doug Tsuruoka, Asia ahead of US in passing laws against social media abuse, Asia Times, Bangkok, 1 March 2018, http://www.atimes.com/article/asia-ahead-us-passing-laws-social-media-abuse/
Candidates and parties are free to purchase political advertising in print publications and in social media. Advertisements from political parties are not allowed on television or radio. This ban has been subject to some controversy, with the populist Progress Party advocating a removal of the restriction. The other political parties are opposed to changing the law. Political advertising during election campaigns is extensively regulated to ensure that voters are aware of the sources behind such advertising.

Television and radio broadcasters, both public and private, organize many electoral debates, to which all major parties (those with a vote share larger than 3% in the previous election) have fair access. There is no government interference in choosing the themes of the debates. In general, however, representatives of the larger parties are interviewed more often and participate in more debates than do small-party candidates.
All political parties with parliamentary representation have good access to the public media during electoral campaigns (e.g., they are covered by news reports, participate in candidate debates, etc.), while outsiders have very restricted access. This has produced some controversy in recent years regarding the limitations suffered by new parties (like Podemos, Ciudadanos or Vox) in their first electoral campaign before entering the parliament.
In terms of pluralism, there is a variety of public and private television and radio stations, newspapers and internet portals. However, the public TV and radio network (state-wide RTVE, and several regional and local channels) has been criticized for its lack of impartiality and credibility, while privately owned media are dominated by only three media groups. The population’s increasing access to the internet (with a penetration rate of approximately 85%) and widespread use of social networks have encouraged the proliferation of electronic newspapers and independent blogs, which counterbalance the oligopolistic trends and guarantee that all opinions can be expressed in public debate.

Universidad de Navarra (2021), Digital News Report https://www.digitalnewsreport.es/resumen-ejecutivo-digitalnewsreport-es-2021-periodismo-de-calidad-y-cercania-para-combatir-la-infodemia/
The Media Law (Article 39g) requires that political parties with one or more seats in either chamber of the States General be allotted time on the national broadcasting stations (radio, television) during the parliamentary term, provided that they participate in nationwide elections. The Commission for the Media ensures that political parties are given equal media access free from government influence or interference (Article 11.3). The commission is also responsible for allotting national broadcasting time to political parties participating in European elections.

Broadcasting time is denied only to parties that have been fined for breaches of Dutch anti-discrimination legislation. The public prosecutor has brought group insult and inciting to discrimination charges against Geert Wilders, the leading member of parliament representing the Party for Freedom (PVV). The charge was upheld (minus the aspect of inciting to discrimination) by the Supreme Court, but no legal punishment was ordered; nor were disadvantaged parties accorded the right of compensation. In this way, the PVV kept its free airtime on national Dutch broadcasting channels. Commercial media outlets decide themselves how much attention to pay to political parties and candidates. Since 2004, state subsidies for participating in elections have been granted only to parties already represented in the States General. Whether this practice constitutes a form of unequal treatment for newcomers is currently a matter of discussion.

However, media access these days also means access to social media (Twitter, blogs, YouTube), especially when competing for younger voters (18 – 35 age group). Dutch political parties have together spent more than €200,000 on Facebook advertisements in the run-up to the European Parliament elections in 2019. Public debate on topics of this nature is only beginning, inspired by issues such as the general financing of political parties, access to social media by new political parties, movements with strong but undisclosed financial support, and foreign interference in national elections. Even in the Netherlands, some parts of society are turning against media reporting, and are threatening journalists. Public media broadcasting equipment (vans, cars) have removed their logos for fear of damages through attacks by inimical individuals, bands or crowds.
NU.nl, 3 November 2019. Politieke partijen gaven 200.000 euro uit aan Facebook-advertenties

Adformatie, 1 nNovember 2016. VVD strijdt ook ‘achter Facebook’ en boekt meeste succes op social media (Adformatie.nl, accessed 3 November, 2019)

de Rechtspraak, 9 December 2016 Wilders schuldig aan groepsbelediging en aanzetten tot discriminatie

Openbaar Ministerie, Strafzaak Wilders (afgesloten 6 Juli 2021)

Villamedia Website over Journalistiek, 15 October 2020. NOS verwijderd logo’s vanwege bedreigingen van journalisten

De Telegraaf, 22 November 2021. Omroep Brabant verwijdert logo’s van wagens: ‘Knieval voor geweld’.
During electoral campaigns, all parties with parliamentary representation have the right to participate in unbiased debates hosted by a public broadcaster. This can, however, be seen as an obstacle to new parties, which are not covered by this guarantee. During the 2019 electoral campaign, private TV channels competed with the public TV broadcaster (ORF) in organizing almost daily discussions between representatives of political parties – with priority usually given to parties represented in parliament. The tendency for private channels to compete with the ORF has created a situation that has been critically described as “overfeeding” the public. However, obviously, this is the price for offering inclusive formats (i.e., avoiding exclusively focusing on the top candidates of the two major parties).

Political parties have what is, in principle, an unlimited ability to take out print advertisements, as long as the source of the advertisement is openly declared. This gives established parties, parties with better access to funding and especially government coalition parties an advantage. The advantage that parties in government enjoy is significant on the provincial and local levels as well as the federal level. This is conducive to a kind of balanced pluralism among the established parties, as parties in opposition at one level (e.g., the SPÖ has been in opposition on the federal level since 2017) are usually in power in some provinces (e.g., in late 2021, the SPÖ led the state governments in Vienna, Carinthia and Burgenland).
All mainstream political parties, or so-called democratic parties, have broadly equal access to the media, both public and private. However, the provision of equal public-media airtime is not guaranteed by law, though those parties with parliamentary representation (as well as the main trade unions, employers’ organizations and religious denominations) receive some specific airtime for short broadcasts of their own. Minor parties and so-called non-democratic (essentially post-fascist) parties do not have equal access to media, as the main TV stations, for instance, reserve the right to ban such political parties from broadcasts. Print media also offer broad and mostly balanced coverage of political parties, although some newspapers may have preferential links to this or that party “family.”

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

The Law on Radio and Television 7(I)/1998 and specific regulations require equitable and non-discriminatory treatment by commercial channels. The law on the public broadcaster (Cyprus Broadcasting Corporation, RIK) and regulations provide for fair and equitable treatment of political actors. Equity must be respected, particularly during the pre-election period, the definition of which varies in law. Airtime must be allotted to political parties in accordance with the number of parliamentary seats they control and their territorial implantation.

Broadcasters are required to adopt an in-house code of coverage. The Cyprus Radio Television Authority (CRTA) monitors compliance with the rules, but publishes an annual report only on the public broadcaster. Paid political advertising on broadcast media is allowed during the 40 days preceding elections, on equal terms for all, without discrimination. It appears that there is compliance with the rules on media access. However, the absence of publicly available codes of conduct and relevant reports negatively impacts our evaluation.

In the 2021 parliamentary elections, the very low proportion of female candidates and women in media was indicative of the lack of a gender balance. Daily activities and heavy advertising by the government have likely upset the balance and the fairness of media coverage.
1. The Law on Radio and Television Stations, L. 7(I)/1998, in Greek, available at http://www.cylaw.org/nomoi/enop/non-ind/1998_1_7/full.html
2. Regulations on fair treatment of parties and candidates, Normative Administrative Acts (NAA) 193/2006 available at http://www.cylaw.org/nomothesia/par _3/meros_1/2006/1641.pdf (in Greek)
3. Christophoros Christophorou (2021), The President, the Government and the Integrity of the Elections,
There are no laws or self-regulatory measures that provide access to airtime on private channels for political actors during election campaigns. Generally, the representation of different political groups is balanced.

Electoral candidates and every political party have equal access to the media. Publicly financed election broadcasts on public and private television are equally available to all, although debates between political party leaders before elections often feature only those parties polling around and above the 5% threshold in the polls.

In recent years, much of the pre-election debate in the private media, in particular on television, has been publicly funded, with this funding being distributed through a public procurement competition. For example, in 2021, the National Electronic Media Council (NEPLP) awarded public procurement funding of €75,000 for the production of pre-election content for municipal elections on commercial television.

The national media system as a whole provides fair and balanced coverage. Individually, however, media outlets do not consistently provide fair and balanced coverage of the range of different political positions. Local newspapers and electronic media in Latvia’s rural regions are often dependent on advertising and other support from the local authorities, sometimes leading to unbalanced coverage favoring incumbents. Local government-owned print media is pushing independent local media out of the market, leaving only local government-owned outlets to function as a public relations arm for incumbents. Meanwhile, the opaque ownership structures of media outlets mean that support for political actors is often implied rather than clearly stated as an editorial position. There are also marked imbalances in media coverage related to the different linguistic communities. For example, both Latvian and Russian-language media demonstrate a bias toward their linguistic audiences.
1. Rožukalne, A. (2016) Monitoring Risks for Media Pluralism in the EU and Beyond: Latvia, Available at: https://cadmus.eui.eu/bitstream/handle/1814/46802/Latvia_EN.pdf?sequence=1&isAllowed=y, Last accessed: 04.01.2022.

2. Rožukalne, A. (2010), Research Paper on Hidden Advertising Issues in the Media, Available at (in Latvian): http://politika.lv/article_files/2117/original/slepta_reklama_mediju_prakse.pdf?1343212009, Last accessed: 04.01.2022.

3. OSCE: Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (2019), Parliamentary Elections 6 October 2018:
ODIHR Election Assessment Mission Final Report, Available at: https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/latvia/409344?download=true, Last accessed: 04.01.2022.

4. LSM (2021) NEPLP has allocated 75,000 euros for the production of pre-election content on commercial television, Available: https://www.lsm.lv/raksts/zinas/latvija/neplp-pieskirusi-75-000-eiro-prieksvelesanu-satura-veidosanai-komerctelevizijas.a403643/, Last accessed: 04.01.2022.
New Zealand
According to the 2017 Election Integrity report, media coverage (together with campaign finance) was evaluated to be relatively poor in comparison with equivalent democracies in Asia/Oceania and western Europe. With a score of 48 (on a scale from 0 to 100), New Zealand was evaluated worse than South Korea (56) and Japan (52). Major issues are the allocation of election broadcasting time based on criteria that favor the two largest parties, leading to unequal access to funds for political campaign broadcasts and a potentially undue influence exercised by non-party actors (Norris et al 2017).

The televised party leader debates represent a recurring point of contention. While in the past, these debates included the leaders of all parties represented in parliament, both in the run-up to the 2017 and 2020 elections, the leaders of the two largest parties (Labour, National) and the leaders of minor parties held separate TV debates. In 2017, a formal complaint over the exclusion of small parties from the debate was rejected by the courts. In 2020, Advance NZ – a fringe party that had repeatedly made false claims about the COVID-19 pandemic (including the claim that 5G mobile networks spread the virus) and ended up winning less than 1% of the vote – went to court over its exclusion from the “minor parties” TV debate. The judge rejected the claim, stressing that “courts will not lightly interfere with editorial decisions of media because an independent media, divorced from political influence, is critically important for a functioning democracy” (Hurley 2020).

Smaller parties have also criticized the unequal allocation of public funding for election broadcasts. For example, in 2020, Labour and National claimed $2.5 million out of a total of just over $4 million, leaving the rest to be fought over by minor contenders (Braae 2020).
Braae (2020) “Minor parties furious at low allocation for TV and radio campaigning.” The Spinoff. https://thespinoff.co.nz/politics/09-06-2020/minor-parties-furious-at-low-allocation-for-tv-and-radio-campaigning

Hurley (2020) “Election 2020: New Conservative fails in High Court to argue for TVNZ debate inclusion.” New Zealand Herald. https://www.nzherald.co.nz/business/election-2020-new-conservative-fails-in-high-court-to-argue-for-tvnz-debate-inclusion/N6GM4PLVRBA6NLDATJD6E6DLR4/

Norris et al. (2018) Corruption and Coercion: The Year in Elections 2017. https://www.electoralintegrityproject.com/the-year-in-elections-2017/
South Korea
The opaque character of South Korean election law concerning allowable support for candidates during the election period, which can last for up to 180 days before an election, represents an electoral gray area. According to some interpretations of Article 93 of the election law, all public expressions of support for candidates or parties are illegal during that period unless one is registered as an official campaigner. This can be seen as a disadvantage for smaller candidates who do not have the same access to traditional media. In general, small parties have a difficult time gaining coverage in the mainstream media. However, YouTube and other social networks have become an influential and equalizing means of public communication for all candidates and parties.

On the other hand, the use of social media to illicitly interfere in elections has become a matter of concern. It has even come to light that the Korean National Intelligence Service (NIS) used social media posts to support President Park’s election in 2012. Demonstrating its stance against social media manipulation, the ruling Democratic Party (DP) in 2018 expelled two members involved in an online opinion-rigging scandal that aimed to benefit the Moon administration.

The immensely controversial National Security Law also applies to online media, creating significant limitations regarding the freedom of expression. Under past conservative administrations, the Korea Communications Standards Commission and the National Election Commission have sought to block accounts or fine online users for online comments critical of the government or the ruling party.
“Do you know the dismissed journalists?” Journalists Association of Korea, January 20, 2016. (in Korean) http://www.journalist.or.kr/news/article.html?no=38319
Kyunghyang.Competition of new media strategies among presidential candidates. March 16, 2017. http://sports.khan.co.kr/bizlife/sk_index.html?art_id=201703161022003&sec_id=561101&pt=nv
Sent, Dylan. 2018. “Social Media Manipulation of Public Opinion in Korean Elections.” The Diplomat, August 31. Retrieved October 13, 2018 (https://thediplomat.com/2018/09/social-media-manipulation-of-public-opinion-in-korean-elections/)
Jung, Jae-soon. “(3rd LD) Ruling Party Expels Two Members Suspected of Online Comment Rigging.” Yonhap News Agency, April 16, 2018. https://en.yna.co.kr/view/AEN20180416003853315.
The media play a central role in political campaigning, and the importance of coverage has further increased in recent years through the rise of social media and the internet. Television remains the most important medium for campaigning in general elections. Paid TV advertising is prohibited for political parties, who can only advertise in newspapers. However, major parties are granted a certain amount of free time for TV advertising, a concession that is not available to minor parties and which could be construed as a deterrent to them.

Coverage on television is fair and balanced, and monitored by Ofcom, the industry regulator. Broadcasters are required to be balanced in their coverage of parties, especially at election time. Though there has been regular criticism of how broadcasters interpret the term “balance.” On occasion, a minority view (for example on climate change) will be given equal weight by organizations such as the BBC. No such restrictions exist for the print industry and indeed there is strong tradition of crass partiality, especially by some newspaper groups that are prominent in national political life, visible during the Brexit referendum campaign of 2016, the ensuing political quarrels and, more recently, in the coverage of Boris Johnson’s difficulties. There is therefore a marked imbalance between print and broadcast. Independent fact-checking agencies, such as Full Fact, which complement media presentations of statistics, try to highlight misleading claims and will be cited in media analyses.
Amendments to the election law in February 2015 changed the legal framework for media coverage of parliamentary elections as part of an effort to end the “clogging” of the media space by minor candidates. As a result of the amendments, private broadcasters are no longer obliged to cover the campaign and public broadcasters can decide themselves whether to provide candidates with proportional rather than equal coverage in reports and analysis. Moreover, debates among candidates have been restricted to only one per broadcaster. After the public broadcaster HRT decided to involve only five parties (a decision based on public opinion polls) for a scheduled debate in the run-up to the 2015 parliamentary elections, the State Electoral Committee judged this decision to be arbitrary and the debate was canceled. Before the 2016 parliamentary elections, HRT broadcast a debate with only the leading candidates of the two biggest parties, thereby ignoring Most-NL’s strong showing in the previous elections and its strategic role. Most-NL and the smaller parties thus complained of discrimination. In the case of the 2019 presidential elections, HTV reacted to these complaints and invited all 11 candidates to a public debate. In contrast, calls by several NGOs to give the Agency for Electronic Media of the Republic of Croatia a more important role in applying the media provisions of the electoral law were not taken up. The Electronic Media Council has the option of sanctioning media outlets that spread misinformation during an election campaign. However, it generally does not use tools to penalize disinformation and manipulative content, relying instead on the candidates who are the target of such disinformation campaigns to initiate proceedings. Coverage of the various political parties in the media during the election process is largely balanced. According to a survey of media experts in Croatia, restrictions on editorial autonomy and political control over media outlets are a much bigger problem.
Grbeša, M., Volarević, M. (2021): Media in Croatia: From Freedom Fighters to Tabloid Avengers, in: Publizistik 66(3-4): 621-636.
The electoral law guarantees parties access to state radio and television, with a total of 14 hours set aside for all parties to express their views with equal allocation irrespective of the party’s size or previous electoral performance. Thus, all parties have access to the public media, although presentations are often tedious and unlikely to hold viewers’ and listeners’ attention. Municipalities also provide billboards, and political advertisements are carried in newspapers. However, there is a distinct coverage bias toward the larger parties due to more significant resources and perception of importance. Moreover, coverage by private media is less balanced than that of public media. While there are oversight mechanisms for public TV and radio, such mechanisms are largely lacking for private media, especially in the online space. A particular issue has been the growing ownership of media outlets by Andrej Babiš, who was prime minister between the end of 2017 and the end of 2021. Babiš’s media outlets have been biased against other parties, including his own government’s coalition partners.
Formally, all parties or candidates have equal access to media. There are no restrictions based on race, gender, language, or other such demographic factors. However, parties already represented in the national parliament or in local councils have an electoral advantage over new parties or candidates. During the 2017 election campaign, two small parties complained about not being allowed to participate in the traditional party leader debate on state-run TV the night before the election. The parties were told they would not be included in the debate because they were unlikely to secure the 5% of votes necessary to win representation and they were not fielding candidates in every constituency.

The established political parties have granted themselves significant budget support in recent years, filling their coffers and thus tilting the playing field in their favor against their opponents.
The electoral process in Mexico is subject to a comparatively high degree of regulation. During the transition to democracy during the 1990s, electoral laws were revised to ensure more equitable conditions for the main political parties.

Currently, all registered political parties are eligible for public financing, the volume of which corresponds to their electoral strength. There are restrictions on the amount of money parties are allowed to raise and spend. Media access during the official campaign period is regulated to ensure a measure of equality. Nevertheless, outside the tightly regulated political campaigns, news coverage is often heavily biased in favor of incumbents. Presidents as well as governors spend exorbitant sums on advertising and pro-government propaganda. Since news outlets rely on this income for their financial survival, they can often scarcely afford to criticize sitting administrations. The Peña Nieto administration has taken this long-standing practice to new levels. According to a report compiled by the think tank Fundar based on government data, his administration spent nearly $2 on advertising in the past five years, substantially more than any previous administrations.

Broadcasting networks and newspapers depend on that money, the big television networks Televisa and Azteca receive around 10% of their advertisement revenue from the federal government.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who was often challenged by the mainstream media before becoming president, relies strongly on the use of social media and a daily press conference that is broadcast live on YouTube. This approach enables the president to circumvent the traditional media, avoid immediate press criticism and promote his agenda. The oligopolized traditional media market has declined in political influence.
New York Times (25 Dec 2017) “Using Billions in Government Cash, Mexico Controls News Media.”
In a broad sense, media access is fair, although the U.S. media exhibit some significant biases. Publicly funded media have access to relatively modest budgets, most of which is financed through community support. Most media organizations are privately owned, for-profit enterprises, independent of the government and political parties. Some media, such as the MSNBC cable news network, have a strong liberal and Democratic party bias. Others, most notably Fox News Channel, have a fervent conservative and/or Republican bias.

It is important to note that during election campaigns, media messages are often dominated by paid advertising. Such advertising can reflect massive imbalances in the fundraising capabilities of the opposing candidates or parties, with a modest, inconsistent advantage for the Republicans.

Citizens more often access political campaign information through social media (i.e., Facebook and Twitter) as often as through traditional news sources, even though social media have proved to be highly effective in efforts to spread misinformation. Despite ongoing political pressures, social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter have long been reluctant to act in order to fight the spread of disinformation. Yet, especially in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have been forced to take more actions to address this increasingly prominent issue.

Still, the unprecedented biases and distortions found within right-wing media outlets and the vulnerability of social media to misinformation suggest that citizens no longer enjoy uncompromised access to reliable information.
Candidates and parties often do not have equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communication. While the major media outlets represent a partisan political bias, the media system as a whole provides fair coverage of different political positions.
Media access for candidates and parties differs between publicly and privately run media. The public broadcast media – one TV and one radio station with several channels each – are required by law to provide full and balanced coverage and to set aside presentation time for every candidate and registered party or coalition. With a large number of parties or candidates usually in the running, splitting the time between each is a serious challenge. Between electoral campaigns, parties not already represented in parliament have little access to public media, especially if they are considered to be potentially serious competitors by the incumbent parties.

Candidates with enough resources face no restrictions to access in private media outlets. Most national private TV and radio broadcasters, with the exception of broadcasters with close relationships to (or owned by) political parties and/or leaders, remain relatively objective throughout campaigns.

Most candidates relied heavily on internet media during the four electoral campaigns of 2021.
Price, L. T. (2018). “Bear in Mind… and Do Not Bite the Hand That Feeds You”: Institutionalized Self-Censorship and Its Impact on Journalistic Practice in Postcommunist Countries – the Case of Bulgaria. In: Eric Freedman, Robyn S. Goodman, Elanie Steyn (eds.), Critical Perspectives on Journalistic Beliefs and Actions. London/ New York: Routledge, 211-221.
Malta has both state and private media. However, an overall media authority is absent. The Maltese constitution provides for a broadcasting authority (BA). Owing to its composition and appointment procedure, the BA is not perceived as an independent regulator as it is controlled by the two big parties. There is a lack of transparency with regards to appointments. Its job is to supervise broadcasting and ensure impartiality. However, the BA focuses on the PBS (public broadcasting service) and not private outlets. It also does not monitor campaign coverage but rather acts on complaints. During elections, the BA provides for equal time for the two major political parties on state television on its own political debate programs as well as airtime for political advertising. However, smaller parties or independent candidates do not receive equal treatment by the state-owned media or any media. The PBS management is appointed by government, which is said to negatively impact its independence. The fault lies with the two main parties, as they alone can change this state of affairs. Several two-to-three member organizations, which call themselves a movement, now receive almost the same amount of news coverage as much larger civil society groups. Furthermore, as both parties own media outlets, their voice is much more dominant. The BA and the Press Act require party-run media to allow for a right of reply to an aggrieved party or individual. Access to newspapers becomes increasingly restricted at election time; unrestricted access is obtainable at a cost. The Media Monitor 2020 stated that only 12% believe that the media in Malta provides information free from political pressure and that public service media are free from political pressure. Overall, the political independence of the media scores a very high 94% risk level. Access to the media for minorities is not addressed, and there is an issue of unequal representation of women both in terms of participation and visibility. Malta ranked 81 in the 2021 World Press Freedom Index. The Media Monitor noted that Malta is the only EU member state where political parties have such extensive media ownership

Due to increased competition and the proliferation of privately owned radio and television stations and online news outlets all candidates can now access time in the media to present their views, albeit at a cost. However, the 2017 OSCE election assessment mission report stated that independent candidates and small parties enjoyed little visibility outside of social media. In 2022, the Nationalist Party has taken the state broadcaster to court over what it describes as political bias and propaganda.
http://www.ba-malta.org/prdetails?i d=246
Social Media during the 2013 General Election in Malta. Department of Information Malta
www.consilium.europa.eu/media/…/1 st-panel-oswald-main-slide-speaker….
Sammut,C (2007) Malta and the Media Landscape
Monitoring Media Pluralism in Europe: Country Report Malta 2018
2019 World Press Freedom Index: Reporters without Borders
Times of Malta 28/04/19 Reporters without Arguments. Mark Anthony Falzon
Malta Today 22/04/19 Reporters without Brain cells Raphael Vassallo
Media Monitor 2020 European University Institute
World Press Freedom Index 2021
Times of Malta 05/02/22 PN Launches constitutional case over PBS Labour Propaganda
While parts of the Romanian political environment are relatively free and pluralistic, key outlets continue to be controlled by business individuals with political interests. Owners’ priorities distort coverage and can result in more favorable coverage for certain candidates. The Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe observers of the 2020 parliamentary elections noted that television channels either did not devote significant airtime to polls or offered extensive coverage to public officials and President Iohannis of the National Liberal Party (PNL). Further, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, President Iohannis issued a decree that allowed authorities to restrict access to webpages or websites that disseminated purportedly false COVID-19 information during the state of emergency. While tackling misinformation related to the pandemic has been an important challenge for governments around the world, observers raised concerns that users had no avenue to appeal the removal of content. The exercise of this power demonstrated the government’s continued ability to participate in media censorship, which could have repercussions during the election process.
Access by candidates and parties to public TV channels is regulated by law (Law No. 18,700, Ley Orgánica Constitucional sobre Votaciones Populares y Escrutinios, and Law No. 18,603, Ley Orgánica Constitucional de los Partidos Políticos). Given the high concentration of media ownership with a specific political viewpoint, candidates and parties de facto lack equal opportunity of access to a plurality of media and other means of communication. La Nación, a former daily paper owned and run by the state, stopped publishing a print edition during Sebastián Piñera’s first administration in 2010 (although the publication is still accessible online). Chile’s largest free TV channel (TVN) is state-owned, and is required by law to provide balanced and equal access to all political views and parties – a regulation which is overseen by the National Television Directorate (Consejo Nacional de Televisión, CNTV). The private media is mainly owned and/or influenced by elite associated with the Chile Vamos (until 2015, Alianza por Chile) coalition, which represented the opposition until March 2018 and has been the ruling political force since then. Although La Nación and TVN are state-owned, they must operate according to market rules, relying on advertising revenues and strong audience ratings. In general, regional candidates tend to have fewer media-access opportunities due to the strong centralization of Chile’s political and media systems.
Legally, parties and candidates have equal access to public and private media. At least for nationwide candidate lists, the election code requires public TV and radio stations to reserve time for the free broadcasting of campaign materials and televised candidate debates. While government influence on the public media has always been a problem, this has tremendously increased since the PiS came to power. Public media reporting now has a clear partisan bias and media access is more difficult for opposition parties. This was once again evident in the 2020 presidential election campaign (OSCE/ ODIHR 2020). The governing PiS used its control over the media to promote nationalist and homophobic rhetoric, and run a smear campaign against opposition candidates. Since there are private media who report more openly, other means of information exist. However, it is difficult to counterbalance the image depicted in the public media.
OSCE/ ODIHR (2020): Special Election Assessment Mission Final Report: Republic of Poland, Presidential Election, 28 June and 12 July 2020. Warsaw (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/poland/464601).
While both the public and private media tend to focus on the parliamentary political parties, Slovenia’s public-media regulatory system and pluralist media environment ensure that all candidates and parties have access to the media. The public TV and radio stations are legally obliged to set aside some airtime for parties to present their messages and their candidates. Since a third public TV channel (mainly covering parliamentary debates) was established in 2014, airtime for political parties and candidate lists has increased. But neither the regulatory body nor civil society organizations systematically monitor media coverage during a campaign. Since the third Janša government was sworn into office in March 2020, media access has suffered even more from the growing party polarization, as most media outlets showed a bias toward either the governing coalition or opposition parties. The latest research, carried out by Faculty of Media in 2020, showed that most media, including the public RTV service, lean toward the left side of the political spectrum, with one private news-only TV broadcaster (Nova24) leaning heavily toward the right side.
Raziskava ministrstva za kulturo: mediji v Sloveniji so pretežno nevtralni, 24ur.com, 1 March 2021, available at
Candidates and parties lack equal opportunities of access to the media and other means of communications. The major media outlets are biased in favor of certain political groups or views and discriminate against others.
Media access is highly uneven. Both the public and the private media are tightly controlled by Fidesz. In the two 2019 election campaigns, the public media ignored the existing formal duties for balanced coverage. The visibility of oppositional parties and candidates in the European Parliament elections – and even more so in the municipal elections – was very low, since the national and local public TV stations did not invite them, and did not organize any public debates. The owners of billboard advertising spaces are closely associated to Fidesz, so that the opposition cannot make itself heard via billboards. During recent campaigns, even the number of smaller posters were substantially reduced, since local authorities limited or banned them, and in many cases posters were either officially removed or removed by Fidesz gangs. Ahead of the 2022 parliamentary elections, human rights envoys from many international organizations have raised strong concerns about the uneven media access (Than 2021; OSCE/ ODIHR 2022).
OSCE/ ODIHR (2022): Hungary, Parliamentary Elections and Referendum, 3 April 2022: Interim Report, March 21. Warsaw (https://www.osce.org/odihr/elections/hungary/514318).

Than, K. (2021): U.N. expert raises concerns over media freedom in Hungary ahead of 2022 vote, Reuters, November 22 (https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/un-expert-raises-concerns-over-media-freedom-hungary-ahead-2022-vote-2021-11-22/).
According to Law 3984 on the establishment of Radio and Television Enterprises and Broadcasts, “equality of opportunity shall be established among political parties and democratic groups; broadcasts shall not be biased or partial; broadcasts shall not violate the principles of election bans which are determined at election times.” However, legislation regulating presidential elections and referendums does not ensure equal access for political parties and candidates to public and private media. The Supreme Board of Elections’ (SBE) ability to penalize those who violate electoral regulations was repealed under state of emergency decree (No. 687) issued in January 2017. The existence of this impunity mechanism facilitated several violations in the June 2018 elections that went unpenalized.

Currently, most mainstream media companies, including the state-owned radio and television company (TRT), are either directly or indirectly controlled by the government or self-censor. Several TRT channels regularly broadcast pro-government programming, and invite experts allied with the government party to appear on these programs. The mainstream (pro-government) TV channels and newspapers frequently use identical headlines. Privately owned media outlets face either judicial or financial investigations, and media freedom is thus being placed at risk in an unconstitutional manner.

During the 2019 campaigns for local-administration elections, the People’s Alliance (comprised of the AKP and MHP) received 61% of the airtime allotted for political parties by the state-run TRT 1 and TRT news outlets. These two channels broadcast a total of 77 hours of negative news targeting the Nation Alliance (comprised of the CHP and IYI parties) and the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP). The most notable recent event revealing the influence of the government in the media sector was the 2019 local elections. The state-run Anadolu Agency stopped publishing election results near midnight on 31 March 2019 when the CHP Istanbul mayoral candidate began to catch up with his AKP rival. After refraining from publishing updated figures for 13 hours, Anadolu Agency finally declared the CHP to be ahead in the Istanbul elections.
Freedom House. “Freedom in the World 2020 Turkey.” 2020. https://freedomhouse.org/country/turkey/freedom-world/2020.

Bianet. “State-Run AA declares CHP ahead in İstanbul elections After 13-Hour Silence,” 1 April 2019, http://bianet.org/english/politics/207014-state-run-aa-declares-chp-ahead-in-ist anbul-elections-after-13-hour-silence
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