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New forms of media repression taking hold, as to Freedom House

05.06.2019, 14:22
The leaders in both democratic societies and authoritarian states apply “new ways to repress independent journalism”, as to Freedom House, independent watchdog of freedom and democracy. Such is the message of the report "Freedom and the Media 2019", published on June 5. This concenrs European countries and US as well. “Antidemocratic leaders in fragile democracies have attempted to tame the media by deploying economic, legal, and extralegal tools to silence critical journalists and bolster friendly outlets. A lack of trust in mainstream news sources, an onslaught of disinformation, and a shortage of sustainable business models all grind down the media sector, laying the groundwork for co-optation by ill-intentioned political actors. “In some of the most influential democracies in the world, populist leaders have overseen a concerted attempt to throttle the independence of the media,” said Sarah Repucci, senior director for research and analysis. “While threats to global media freedom are concerning in their own right, their effect on the state of democracy is what makes them truly dangerous.” “Viktor Orbán’s government in Hungary and Aleksandar Vučić’s administration in Serbia have had great success in snuffing out critical journalism, blazing a trail for populist forces elsewhere. Both leaders have consolidated media ownership in the hands of their cronies, ensuring that the outlets with the widest reach support the government and smear its perceived opponents. In Hungary, where the process has advanced much further, nearly 80 percent of the media are owned by government allies. Cultivation of pro-government media is spreading to neighboring states. The leader of the far-right Freedom Party of Austria, until recently part of that country’s ruling coalition, was caught on video attempting to collude with Russians to purchase the largest national newspaper and infuse its coverage with partisan bias. Score declines linked to economic manipulation of media—including cases in which the government directs advertising to friendly outlets or encourages business allies to buy those that are critical—were more common across Europe over the past five years than in other parts of the world. Such tactics of influence and interference are a relatively recent phenomenon on the continent, which has generally displayed strong support for press freedom since the fall of the Berlin Wall 30 years ago. In perhaps the most concerning development of recent years, press freedom has come under unusual pressure in the United States, the world’s leading democratic power. Although key news organizations remain strong and continue to produce vigorous reporting on those in office, President Donald Trump’s continual vilification of the press has seriously exacerbated an ongoing erosion of public confidence in the mainstream media. Among other steps, the president has repeatedly threatened to strengthen libel laws, revoke the licenses of certain broadcasters, and damage media owners’ other business interests. The US constitution provides robust protections against such actions, but President Trump’s public stance on press freedom has had a tangible impact on the global landscape”.
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