European University Institute - Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies

Media pluralism and media freedom in danger across Europe – MPM2021

The Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom's Media Pluralism Monitor 2021 confirms mounting physical attacks and online harassment against journalists, while the COVID-19 pandemic impacted journalists’ working conditions and the profitability of the news industry across Europe.

20/07/2021 | News - Research

The Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF) at the European University Institute (EUI) has just released its annual major research, the Media Pluralism Monitor (MPM2021).

The findings confirm the trends of previous years of research, demonstrating general stagnation or deterioration of media pluralism and media freedom across all European Union Member States as well as in candidate countries, Albania, Montenegro, Serbia, The Republic of North Macedonia and Turkey.

Among the highlights:

  • The safety of journalists is of particular concern, with several countries reporting increases in physical attacks against journalists as well as online threats and harassment.
  • As states sought measures in 2020 to prevent the spread of false information during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Monitor presents a picture of overall decline in Europe regarding protection of freedom of expression and protection of the right to information.
  • Journalists' economic working conditions continue to deteriorate, particularly amongst freelancers and independent journalists.
  • The economic sustainability of the entire news industry is jeopardised, due, in part, to advertising revenues being increasingly appropriated by digital platforms.

“The MPM clearly demonstrates the present fragility of media pluralism in Europe in view of the turbulence brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic and continuing digital disruption”, said Professor Pier Luigi Parcu. “While the COVID-19 highlighted the critical importance of professional quality journalism in times of crisis, we are increasingly seeing incidents of violence against journalists, online threats, and increasing economic uncertainty. Trends such as these harm journalists’ ability to perform their essential role in society at the service of our democratic discourse.”

The MPM2021 is a scientific data-driven work to document the risks to media pluralism in the European Union Member States and Candidate Countries. A network of national teams and experts, coordinated by the researchers based in Florence, Italy, gathers and elaborates the relevant data. Based on a set of 200 variables arranged within 20 indicators, the MPM2021 encompasses legal, economic and socio-political analysis and provides a sound basis to inform policy-makers, researchers and other stakeholders on the health of the EU media environment. The report proposes a series of recommendations for the consideration of different stakeholders.

The research is carried out with the support of a grant awarded by the European Union to the CMPF at the EUI's Robert Schuman Centre.

Selection of key MPM2021 findings:

  • The physical and digital safety of journalists continues to be an issue as threats against and harassment of journalists increase across Europe. Threats from politicians and in the online sphere may have had a chilling effect on journalists’ freedom of expression.
  • The sustainability of news media publishers’ business models is increasingly under threat. The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated already declining revenues for news media as advertising money is increasingly oriented to big tech platforms. However, there is some resilience shown for digital news media with the first emergence of alternative revenue models. In some countries ordinary and extraordinary public subsidies to the media contributed to alleviating the economic challenges.
  • State advertising, sometimes employed as a form of support for struggling news media, may be a source of concern. The majority of countries (25) scored high risk as they lack transparency concerning beneficiaries and expenditure, a signal of increasing political capture.
  • In almost all countries, the existing frameworks for combatting illegal hate speech are not sufficient for the online sphere. This affects vulnerable social groups, such as minorities, people with disabilities and women.
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