Four Shades of Censorship: Report on state intervention in the Central Eastern European media markets

The paper ‘Four Shades of Censorship’ presents the results of the project “Good practice sharing for a more open and transparent media across developing democracies in CEE”. The project, funded by the National Endowment for Democracy, aims to provide a comprehensive picture of media policy processes in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania, based on up-to-date data.

The project was led by (HU), and involved MediaForum (CZ), ActiveWatch (RO) and MEMO 98 (SK).

The research pays special attention to the specificities of the media market and the situation of journalism, and analyses the legal environment not only on the basis of legislation but also on the basis of the practice of law enforcement. In contrast to other media policy analyses, the most important specificity of the research is that it focuses on the collection and processing of primary data instead of the secondary processing of expert interviews and literature sources. With its broad methodological background, it provides an evidence-based report that is a relevant starting point for media policy decisions by industry, government and the European Union.

The cumulative impact of the media policies of the past years in the CEE countries (and in Hungary in particular) has resulted in a comprehensive transformation of the media systems. This has gone hand in hand with the weakening of the safeguards of media freedom and a contraction in the room for manoeuvre of independent media practitioners and outlets. On the basis of our research it is clear that this process rests on three pillars: (1) the undermining of the independence of the organisations responsible for overseeing private and public media; (2) the manipulation of access to the market resources necessary for media market activities; and (3) the manipulation of the information environment by controlling the access to public information and the political agenda (political interference to the PSM).

The countries under review, Czechia, Hungary, Slovakia and Romania, share a number of similarities, mainly due to their historical and geographical position. Despite the similarities, the four countries offer significantly different boundary conditions for media freedom and the functioning of media market players. This is also reflected in the Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index.

Figure: Reporters Without Borders World Press Freedom Index (Source: The Report, p. 7.)

Mertek Media Monitor is also a partner in Mediadelcom project.

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