An end to the ‘desperate situation’ for Europe’s journalists?

Sofia Mandilara really likes her job. As a reporter for the Greek news agency Amna, she is “often at the forefront of important events”, she said. “Through us, people find out what is going on in our country.” But not all that goes on in Greece is reported. This is because Amna belongs to the Greek state and is subject to the office of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis. Anyone who reports critically on his conservative government is censored, the 38-year-old said.

A similar situation exists at the Italian state broadcaster, Rai, which plays a major role in shaping public opinion. It is increasingly under the influence of Italy’s right-wing populist government. Immediately after taking office in October 2022, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni filled all management positions with her followers. The two previous governments did the same, but none as radically as Meloni. Prominent reporters left and even high-profile journalist and anti-Mafia author Roberto Saviano’s show was cancelled after he tangled with Meloni. Positive reports about Meloni’s government, meanwhile, account for around 70% of all political news on Rai stations, according to the media research institute Osservatorio di Pavia.

Journalists at the Journal du Dimanche, France’s leading Sunday newspaper, have also suffered a radical change of regime. In the spring, Vivendi, owned by billionaire Vincent Bolloré, got the go-ahead to buy the publishing giant Lagardère, including the JDD. Bolloré publicly denies any political interest. But as with his acquisitions of CNews in 2016 and the magazine Paris Match last year, the buy-out was followed by a sharp turn in the editorial orientation of the JDD towards the far right.

State officials who demand censorship, party functionaries who misuse public broadcasters for their propaganda and billionaires who buy media to propagate their own political interests – what was long known only in Viktor Orbán’s Hungary – is spreading across Europe. The creeping decline in media freedom and pluralism has been documented for years by the Centre for Media Freedom at the European University of Florence, an EU-funded project. There is now “an alarming level of risk to media pluralism in all European countries”, researchers wrote in their annual report in June.

This puts Europe in a “desperate situation”, said Věra Jourová, the EU Commission vice-president for values and transparency. The Czech Commissioner has personal experience of life without a free press. “I lived under communism, that was uncontrolled power – and unchallengeable power. This should not happen in any EU member state,” she said in an interview with Investigate Europe, a co-operative of journalists from different European countries. Media are “the ones who keep politicians under control. If we want the media to fulfil its important role in democracy, we have to introduce a European safety net.” That is why she is pushing to implement a landmark EU law “to protect media pluralism and independence”, which would set legally binding standards to preserve press freedom in all EU member states.

She and her colleagues introduced the bill in September 2022. Among other things, it provides that: public service media must report “impartially” and their leadership positions must be “determined in a transparent, open and non-discriminatory procedure”; the allocation of state funds to media for advertising and other purposes must be made “according to transparent, objective, proportionate and non-discriminatory criteria”; governments and media companies must ensure that the responsible “editors are free to make individual editorial decisions”; owners and managers of media companies must disclose “actual or potential conflicts of interest” that could affect reporting; and the enforcement of journalists to reveal their sources, including through the use of spyware, must be prohibited.

All of this seems self-evident for democratic states and yet it met with massive resistance from not only Hungary and Poland, but also Austria and Germany. They argued the proposal is overreaching, “with reference to the cultural sovereignty of the member states”, according to minutes from the legislative negotiations in the EU Council, obtained by Investigate Europe. The four governments wanted a directive rather than a legally binding regulation, which would allow the governments to undermine the bill.

In Germany, media supervision is the task of regional states. On their behalf, Heike Raab from the state government of Rhineland-Palatinate, led the negotiations in the EU Council. The EU was acting as a “competence hoover in an area that was expressly reserved for the member states in the treaties”, Raab argued, saying the law would be an “encroachment on publishers’ freedom” in line with the respective lobby. If publishers are no longer allowed to dictate the content of their media alone, this would “destroy the freedom of the press”, the Federal Association of Newspaper Publishers declared. The European Publishers Association claimed that the EU proposal was in fact a “media unfreedom act”. However, Raab and the publishers’ lobby failed to present any practical proposals on how to stop the attacks on editorial freedom.

Such opposition has so far proved largely unsuccessful. Although several controversial amendments to the law have been put forward (most notably when a majority of EU governments backed a change to allow the possible use of spyware in the name of national security), the key proposals of Jourová and her colleagues were adopted in June by most EU governments. If, as expected, the parliament also gives its approval at the beginning of October, the law could come into force early next year – and trigger a small revolution in the European media system. At least that is what Jourová hopes.

The direct influence on public service media by way of appointment of politically affiliated managers, as seen in Greece and Italy, for example, would not be compatible with the new law. “The state must not interfere in editorial decisions,” Jourová said. If a member state does not comply, the Commission could open proceedings against the government for violation of the EU treaties. And if the violations continue, this could “lead to very serious financial penalties from the European Court of Justice.”

Journalists themselves could also sue governments or private media owners in national courts against censorship or surveillance on their part, the Commissioner explained.

It is questionable, however, whether this can help reverse the decline of media diversity in the right-wing populist-ruled countries. The Hungarian and Polish government are already accepting the blocking of billions in payments from EU funds because they violate the principles of the rule of law with their political control of the courts. So why should they fear further rulings by EU judges?

Viktor Orbán’s regime has for years engineered a “creeping economic strangulation” of independent media in Hungary, says journalist Zsolt Kerner of the online magazine The government withdrew all state advertising contracts for independent media and then pressured commercial advertisers to do the same. Today, advertising revenues only go to media loyal to the government. survived only thanks to an economically strong and independent investor. The rest either had to close or were taken over by those connected to Orbán. This would all become illegal with the planned regulation because EU law trumps national legislation. But Kerner and his colleagues “doubt whether it will do any good in our country.” After all, the government has “many good lawyers”.

“Maybe Hungary is a bit immune now,” said Commissioner Jourová. But there, too, the government will “sooner or later feel the political impact”. An “independent European media board”, including media experts from all 27 EU states, is planned under the new regulation. While the board can decide by majority vote only on assessments without legal consequences, Jourová expects that countries “which the board certifies as restricting media freedom” will “lose their international reputation, for which most governments are very sensitive.”

This could well put pressure on the right-wing nationalists in Poland, thinks Roman Imielski, deputy head of Gazeta Wyborcza, the country’s last major independent newspaper. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki’s government has also turned public television and the national news agency into “a Russian-style propaganda machine” that brands all critics as “traitors to the nation and conspirators”, Imielski said. But if Poland looks bad to the US government, for example, “that puts pressure on it”, as happened when the government tried to sell the government-critical TVN station, owned by a US group, to a Polish buyer. Under pressure from Washington, the Polish president vetoed the corresponding law in 2021.

When or even if Jourová’s grand plan actually becomes law is still unknown. After the parliamentary adoption scheduled for the beginning of October, its representatives still have to agree on a common text with the Council. As mentioned, most EU governments want to reverse the planned ban on the use of surveillance software against journalists and explicitly allow it in cases of danger “to national security”. Article six, which obliges media owners to respect “editorial freedom”, is also highly controversial. Member states, including Germany, want to weaken this provision considerably by only granting this freedom “within the editorial line” set by media owners. If successful, the law would fail at a crucial point.

“The problem is not media concentration in itself, the problem is that it gets into the wrong hands,” said Gad Lerner, a columnist at the still independent Il Fatto Quotidiano, who worked for La Repubblica until it was sold. “More and more entrepreneurs with a core business in other industries are buying newspapers, TV or radio to give visibility to the politicians on whom they depend for their real business.”

“Of course, we don’t want rich people to buy media to influence politics. But we are not here to micromanage how the newsrooms should be organised,” Jourová said, pointing to the need for civil society and journalists to help push for stronger editorial freedoms.

The Greek journalist Sofia Mandilara, who works at the state news agency, has already given a starting signal for this. With the help of the trade union, she filed a public complaint against the censorship of statements critical of the government in one of her articles and – to her surprise – was allowed to write another article on the subject. Since then, “at least they always ask me when they want to change my texts,” she said with a laugh.

This is a modified version of an article that first appeared on Investigate Europe here

Illiberal democracies: Awash in media without plurality

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_row_inner][vc_column_inner][vc_single_image image=”102216″ img_size=”full”][/vc_column_inner][/vc_row_inner][vc_column_text]Visitors to Eurasian countries — Turkey, Russia, Ukraine or, to a lesser extent, Azerbaijan — might be impressed by the sheer number of domestic television channels that offer news programming.

The average TV viewer in Turkey flipping through the local channels is treated to an alphabet soup — atv, Kanal D, NTV, STV, interspersed with FOX TV, CNN Türk, public broadcaster TRT and countless others — all employing a vast number of journalists and purporting to keep the viewers abreast of events shaping the domestic and global agenda. The broadcasts are slick: filled with chyrons, attention-grabbing graphics, remote reports, breaking news, heated exchanges between talking heads and all the other trappings of the modern-day 24-hour news cycle.

Watching the lively debates hosted by TV personalities, who exude an air of professionalism and discernment, with or without live audiences nodding in acquiescence or registering disapproval, viewers may be given the impression that they are being exposed to a wide range of opinions in a vibrant, competitive media market.

But does this wealth of channels translate into pluralism of points of view?

“Certainly not,” says Esra Arsan, journalism scholar and former columnist for Turkey’s Evrensel, one of the remaining newspapers supplying alternative news and commentary left in the country. “In Turkey, there’s no pluralistic media environment. The Turkish media have never been pluralistic in the true sense of the word, but at least there were once mechanisms that allowed for the voices of the right, left, mainstream and fringe wings to be heard, especially, on small media groups occupying the niche space,” she says, citing the formerly independent Turkish-language media, their Kurdish-language counterparts and those of other minority groups.

Arsan described the massive media reorganisation that took place in parallel with the rise of president Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP party since 2007. “It was characterised by replacing the old media owners with the new ones with close ties to the government, and exercising total control over them, especially, in big media,” she adds.

During the Erdogan-inspired restructuring of the media, professional journalists and newsroom managers were forced out or jailed, Arsan says. The replacement managers left a lot to be desired. “Many of these people are uneducated, have no idea of journalistic ethics or professionalism, they’ve become the mouthpieces for the government”. She points out that more than 3,000 professional journalists who were working prior to 2007 are now jobless.

“Nowadays, no matter how many television broadcasters there are in Turkey, we can say the government exercises control over 90 percent of them,” says Ceren Sözeri, a communications faculty member at Istanbul’s Galatasaray University, citing a recent study conducted by Reporters Without Borders.

“Among the channels not under government control were stations belonging to Doğan Group, such as Kanal D and CNN Türk. Very recently, it was sold to Demirören Group, a conglomerate with close ties to the government,” Sözeri says.

Among the TV channels that are still able to provide diversity in the face of the pro-government news she tentatively cites FOX TV, Tele1 and HalkTV, the latter being associated with the CHP, the main opposition party. “With these exceptions, almost all other remaining channels work in conformity with the government, we can say we have an environment completely devoid of diversity,” Sözeri says.

Driven by Erdogan’s efforts to build a single-party regime, this media reorganisation pursued the goal of controlling information disseminated in the country. Buffered by the concurrent changes to the constitution and legal reforms, the jailing of journalists started to rise as well.

If this sounds familiar, that’s because it should: “What [Russian president] Putin did since he came to power, was establish control over influential media outlets that had the capacity to form public opinion, firstly, TV,” notes Gulnoza Said, Europe and Central Asia research associate at the Committee to Protect Journalists.

“All federal channels are very tightly controlled by the state now, with the instructions sent to the heads of TV companies on how to report on certain situations. It’s very clear that anybody who appears on your screen on a federal channel in Russia knows how they can and cannot speak about important and critical issues like Ukraine and Syria,” she says noting the two hot-button issues around Russia’s ongoing military involvement abroad.

According to the latest numbers released by the Media and Law Studies Association, a Turkish non-profit that offers legal protection to the rising number of journalists who find themselves in the crosshairs of the government, with 173 journalists in jail, Turkey currently holds the dubious title of the regional leader.

With 10 journalists currently in jail, according to a CPJ report, Azerbaijan is a distant second in the region, and number one among the former Soviet nations. Russia has five, according to the same report.

In addition to the state-owned AzTV and Ictimai (Public) TV that was created in 2005 as part of the country’s commitments before the Council of Europe, there are four nationwide broadcasters in Azerbaijan: Atv, Xazar, Space and Lider.

Azerbaijani media rights lawyer Alasgar Mammadli says that all these channels fail to inject diversity into the discourse in his country because no outlet presents a balanced viewpoint.  

“The media only cover the government’s point of view. Considering the realities of Azerbaijan where the majority of information is obtained through TV and radio, we not only don’t have access to objective information, there’s no room for pluralistic news, we only have one expression, one colour.” He calls it “propaganda coming from the government that is disseminated to a large swath of the public,” noting that the internet is the only place offering some semblance of pluralism.

“In the entire region, I’d probably not name a single country where we’ve seen a positive trend, with the slight exception of, surprisingly, Uzbekistan,” says CPJ’s Said, noting that with the new administration of president Shavkat Mirziyoyev there has been a process of liberalisation, and for the first time in more than two decades, there are no journalists in jail.

Said notes that another negative trend is very visible in Ukraine since Russia annexed its region of Crimea in 2014. “At the time, after the Euromaidan [the wave of civil unrest that resulted in the government change], the Ukrainian media space had been relatively free for some time, but right now what we see is that the authorities are trying to control the flow of information, and the attempts are very visible and quite strong.”

Said explains that Ukrainian journalists are facing obstacles practically every day, stressing that she is not talking about Russian journalists trying cover the news from Ukraine. “The [Ukrainian] Ministry of Defense is making it extremely difficult for local journalists to get the so-called ‘military accreditation’ that would allow them to go to the eastern part of the country and cover combat operations,” says Said, adding that one of the newly imposed requirements is that the journalists applying for accreditation must provide previously written stories about the conflict.

“I would say it is censorship, because the government is trying to control the way the journalists cover the conflict,” she points out.

Galina Petrenko, director of Detector Media, a Ukrainian media watchdog organisation, disagrees: “There is pluralism [in Ukraine]. The economic interests doubtless manipulate the discourse, as the largest media belong not to the government, but to oligarchs, formidable businessmen conjoined with the power. That’s why business interests of each of these owners are reflected in the content of the media they own.”

Ukraine’s TV and radio council puts the number of the national TV broadcasters at 30, in addition to 72 regional channels. The country counts 120 satellite TV channels.

Maria Tomak of the Kyiv-based Media Initiative for Human Rights in Kyiv says that oligarchic ownership of the media has implications for pluralism. “We do have the freedom of speech, in comparison with Russia and other nations, but we do have limitations that are sometimes very tricky and are related to the economic factors, since we don’t have all that many independent media.”

She says that there is more than one “clan” or “group of influence” engaged in a struggle for power and influence. This conflict more or less preserves a tenuous pluralism. “When they start ‘oligarchic wars’, TVs show documentary footage or run news stories that clearly indicate who calls the shots at a particular channel. They mudsling or broadcast expose-style programmes, but it’s hard to call them objective, and it is hard to call it pluralism in its ideal sense.”

Bad examples are contagious

“The countries of the region quite often and quite speedily learn from each other’s negative experience,” says Mammadli. “For instance, Azerbaijan started officially blocking sites in February of 2017 through amendments to legislation. Before that, it was prevalent in Turkey and Russia.” He adds that the majority of the blocked sites are related to the alternative news sources. Mammadli puts the number of the internet sites and resources blocked in Russia at more than 136,000.

“We live in a region neighbouring Russia and Turkey and share ties with them, which speeds up the migration of these experiences into our country. Thus, the negative changes or attitudes towards human rights or the tendencies to limit freedom and rule of law in these countries can come to our country very fast,” he says. “It turns into a competition with the following logic, ‘the neighbor did it and got away with it, so let me try and see what happens’.’’

CPJ’s Said notes that these traditionally autocratic regimes keep one eye on the USA, which has been regarded as the flagman of press freedom and liberal democracy for decades. “Everybody used to look up at the USA, but since Trump was elected president, you know his routine, he wakes up in the middle of the night and starts tweeting, attacking journalists and critical media, calling everything they produce ‘fake news’.”

In her view, this definitely affects global press freedom, as dictators and elected officials with autocratic tendencies step up their pressure on critical media outlets in their own countries.

Arsan says of the effects of this phenomenon in Turkey: “If the dictator says the news is wrong or fake, even if you bring the most truthful news to them, be it on the issue of the human rights, war, the economy, the people will tend to disbelieve you. This makes the job of a journalist that much harder, because we chase the truth, and we see the tendency to disbelieve or outright denial on behalf of the audience.”

“Vulnerable stability” as the dangerous consequence

The shrinking plurality in the media throughout the entire region leads to a somewhat distorted processes of decision making during elections, says Said.  

“The lack of plurality, which is a lack of democratic process or access to such, does, in general, make any society more vulnerable. If we look at the situation inside any country, also, when you look at dictators like Putin, you may get an impression that their power is very stable and strong. But that’s a very vulnerable stability,” she adds, explaining it with the fact that it is, ultimately, one person making decisions for the entire country of millions of people.

“If you look at what Erdogan has been doing for the last 10 years or so, he has been pursuing the policy of turning Turkey into a regional leader and suppressing any alternative voice. Same with Putin and his foreign policy in Ukraine with the annexation of Crimea, or Syria. In a way, it is back to the USSR, where people could discuss things only among their family or close friends in their kitchens.”

In the opinion of Arsan, as media plurality shrinks, societies become increasingly unaware of  crises, which might set them on a path to disintegration. “This is the process of criminalising political discussion,” she said. “This is common in many Eurasian countries, as well as in the Middle East. These are the dictatorships without an end. People don’t want to go to the ballot boxes anymore because they don’t think they can effect change.”

For Mammadli, the people’s inability to access true information and analyse it means that they are contending with mass propaganda. From this point of view, the societies where people don’t know the truth will base their reactions on a lie, he says.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_column_text]

Media Freedom

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Media freedom is under threat worldwide. Journalists are threatened, jailed and even killed simply for doing their job.

Index on Censorship documents threats to media freedom in Europe through a monitoring project and campaigns against laws that stifle journalists’ work. We also publish an award-winning magazine featuring work by and about censored journalists.

Learn more about our work defending press freedom.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Mapping Media Freedom

Index on Censorship’s project Mapping Media Freedom tracks limitations, threats and violations that affect media professionals in 43 countries as they do their job.

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Ireland’s media ownership concentration breeds pessimism

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”95135″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][vc_column_text]There’s considerable disagreement about how to tackle Ireland’s lack of plurality of media ownership. At the same time, there’s a growing pessimism that anything will change in the short term.

“There is no doubt we have a high concentration of media ownership in Ireland…that 45 to 50 percent of weekly newspapers – daily titles, plus weekends – are owned by one media organisation is unusual by any standards. Few other democracies exhibit this degree of concentration,”  Dr Roderick Flynn, who focuses on media plurality at Dublin City University told Mapping Media Freedom.

Broadcasting in Ireland is dominated by the semi-state body, RTE. Its radio station, RTE Radio One, holds a clear majority of the most-listened-to shows. Its main TV station, RTE One, is equally dominant. The station also has a very significant presence online, and in addition, owns the Irish language station TG4. RTE received a license fee worth €178.9 million in 2015 but, significantly, the company also competes for advertising on all of its media platforms. However, it posted a €20 million loss last year.

In the commercial sector, the businessman Denis O’Brien plays a very significant role in the broadcasting and publishing landscape. He wholly owns Ireland’s largest commercial news radio stations – Newstalk and Today FM – through his Communicorp group. In addition, the company owns music radio stations such as Spin FM. O’Brien is also the largest shareholder in the Independent News and Media group. INM has full ownership of titles such as the Irish Independent, Sunday Independent, Herald, and Sunday World as well as holding a 50% stake in the Irish Daily Star. It also owns regional newspapers such as The Kerryman and The Sligo Champion. O’Brien’s stake in INM stands at 29.9%.

The National Union of Journalists has campaigned for decades for successive governments to legislate to ensure that media ownership in the country does not remain overly concentrated. However, the NUJ has little optimism that things are about to change. Acting general secretary Seamus Dooley summed-up the mood when he told MMF: “Irish politicians have shown cowardice in tackling issues of media ownership, so we would not be confident of reform in this area.”

This situation has had an impact on Ireland’s reputation. A 2017 report from Reporters Without Borders described media ownership in Ireland as “highly concentrated” and asserted that this posed “a major threat to press freedom.” Ireland has fallen from 9th to 14th place in the RWB standings.

A prominent member of the Irish parliament, Catherine Murphy, who is the co-founder of the Social Democrats party, told MMF: “I think the risks are considerable. The media needs to provide the public with a critical analysis on the major issues. When media ownership is concentrated in too few hands, then there is a danger of ‘group-think’ emerging. A practical example would have been the media coverage in advance of Ireland’s property crash.”

Earlier this year, Murphy introduced a private members bill on media ownership, however it was opposed by the coalition government. She is reserving her judgement on indications by the communications minister, Denis Naughten, that the issue will be tackled.

“I think there were some commitments given, and fine words too, but I would want to see the heads of a bill, or a memo going to cabinet, before I would take those commitments and words seriously. There is a laissez-faire approach often adopted by government. I’m afraid that it could all be lip-service”, Murphy said.

During the debate in parliament, Naughten, said: “I believe a strong and pluralistic media is at the heart of a free and open democracy.” However, he then said that the government would be opposing Murphy’s bill, partly on the basis that he believed that “… the current regime to assess media mergers is working well.”

Naughten also asserted that he was precluded by legislation from taking retrospective action because parliament “… has not provided for powers to retrospectively examine, review or intervene in past media mergers.” He argued that this could raise “significant constitutional issues”  because it would be required to be balanced with the right to private property.

Ireland’s capacity to examine media mergers was due to be tested this year when Independent News and Media proposed acquiring Celtic Media – a move which would have increased the number of INM’s regional newspaper titles from 13 to 20. Under cross-media ownership regulations, the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (BAI) was charged with conducting a review, after which the minister for communications would take a decision. However, the €4 million deal was called-off at the last minute – something welcomed by the NUJ which argued that such a merger would have “further undermined media diversity in Ireland.”

Dooley said that the government needs to take a holistic approach, given the plethora of problems facing Irish media – including the flight of advertising to online: “The NUJ has called for a commission on the future of the media in Ireland. This would look at the future of print, broadcasting and digital media. The issue of ownership would form part of the terms of reference. Yes – the industry faces challenges. And the impact of Facebook and Google cannot be understated.”  

Other players in the Irish print media include The Irish Times, which is owned and controlled by a trust. Landmark Media controls another national newspaper, The Irish Examiner, as well as a number of regional titles and local radio stations. Landmark is owned by the Crosbie family. The news media giant, News Corp, owns the Irish edition of the Sunday Times, The Irish Sun, and the print-online The Times of Ireland. News Corp also owns several regional radio stations. The Irish Daily Mail is a division of the UK parent company.

The newest broadcasting entrant to the Irish market is the communications giant Liberty Global, which purchased the independent television network TV3. Subsequently, Liberty absorbed the ill-fated station, UTV Ireland, and its financial power has seen TV3 outbid RTE for sports rights.

Given the current situation, the NUJ is very concerned about the capacity of the public to access quality journalism on the major issues of the day. Seamus Dooley told MMF: “Owners seldom directly intervene to influence content. But corporate policies shape news, content and help influence views. So if the emphasis is on maximising profit, at the expense of editorial investment, then that has a significant impact.”

Flynn of DCU has conducted considerable research into this issue. In 2016, he wrote the report Media Pluralism Monitor Ireland and presented the data at a conference in Dublin in 2017 organised by the European Centre for Peace and Media Freedom.  He told MMF: “A point that goes slightly under the radar is that as well as owning the two biggest independent radio stations in the country – Newstalk and Today FM – Denis O’Brien’s Communicorp group also owns the Dublin stations 98FM and Spin 103.8. While RTE still accounts for 43% of the County Dublin market as a whole, this drops to 11.2% amongst the 15-24 year olds. By contrast, JNLR listenership figures released in July 2017 suggest that Communicorp-owned stations accounted for more than 52% of the market share in Dublin.”

According to Flynn, the problem is not limited to Dublin. “Newstalk’s so-called ‘rip-and-read’ news service is now used for national and international news bulletins by all regional radio stations in Ireland. That’s another example of the concentration of media ownership here,” he said.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”12″ style=”load-more” items_per_page=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1517486798990-b483150f-f681-9″ taxonomies=”6564″][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]

Mapping Media Freedom

Click on the bubbles to view reports or double-click to zoom in on specific regions. The full site can be accessed at[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

Exploring Ireland’s decline in media plurality


The full report is available in PDF format

The full report is available in PDF format

The Republic of Ireland has seen a steady decline in media plurality, according to the authors of a new report.

The recent Report on the Concentration of Media Ownership in Ireland, published on 19 October, concludes that the country has one of the most concentrated media markets, with wealthy media owners possessing the influence to skew the news report for personal gain. According to the report the  The authors — Caoilionn Gallagher and Jonathan Price at Doughty Street Chambers, Gavin Booth and Darragh Mackin at KRW Law, and commissioned by Lynn Boylan MEP– drew on a variety of studies to compile the report including research from the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom’s Media Pluralism Monitor (2015). Based on the source material, the report examined how diversity in viewpoints and opinions are reflected in a nation’s media content. 

CMPF created a Media Pluralism Monitor to measure whether a country is a “high risk territory” on a scale of 0% to 100%, with “high risk” countries falling at 74% or above. Researchers based in the 19 countries covered by the monitor collect data points that include protection of journalists, number of media outlets, political independence and social inclusiveness among other indicators.

In 2015 Dr. Roderick Flynn, of Dublin City University, generated a report on Ireland for CMPF’s Media Pluralism Monitor which found there was a “medium risk” (54%) of market plurality, and specifically “very high risk” (74%) in relation to the “concentration of media ownership”. Based on Flynn’s research it was concluded that, largely, the media concentration stemmed from businessman Denis O’Brien, founder of Communicorp, owner of a significant minority stake in Independent News and Media and a large portion of the commercial radio sector. The October report called O’Brien’s ownership and influence in media outlets a concern. Additionally, Doughty Street Chambers and KRW Law highlighted the Irish defamation law as a key issue “which threatens news plurality and undermines the media’s ability to perform its watchdog function”.

Though Flynn’s study and the Doughty Street Chambers and KRW Law report clearly point out significant issues, which have been further discussed with organisations such as the National Union of Journalists and the EU Commission, it also proposes ideas for revisions. The report states the “firm view that there must be detailed multi-disciplinary analysis and careful consideration before any steps are taken”. The authors of the report suggest that the Irish should “establish a cross-disciplinary commission of inquiry”, which would “examine the issues closely and make concrete recommendations.” Additionally the authors ask the Council of European Committee of Experts on Media Pluralism and Transparency of Media Ownership to work within the parameters of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), a treaty that “the right to [business] property is heavily caveated under”. Consequently, by utilising the ECHR, the committee could spur a decrease in the media power of business moguls such as Denis O’Brien. Along with further modifications, the study indicates that these alterations are necessary to maintain media plurality in Ireland.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column][vc_basic_grid post_type=”post” max_items=”4″ element_width=”6″ grid_id=”vc_gid:1479382383515-ed0923d1-1fb7-1″ taxonomies=”76″][/vc_column][/vc_row]