Media Freedom Conference Sofia




We are talking about the media pluralism and freedom in Europe’ 2018.

But, what we have to FIRSTLY see?

The SACRIFICED CREDIBILITY

Symbolically and morally, we start with the memory of Maltese journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia and Slovak journalist Jan Kuciak and his partner – the brave journalists who have been murdered. They wanted to discover the truth. They wanted to deliver in the credible way the information to the citizens about the corrupt relations between the representatives of the authorities and mafia.

They have played the key-guardian role in keeping democracy. Because TRANSPARENCY IS PART OF DEMOCRACY.

One of the crucial anchors for democracy is the independent journalism and free media.

SECONDLY,

what is going on with the independence of media in the light of democracy’s deficiencies and the era of POPULISM?

Some remarks and conclusions were presented earlier in the panel, so I will focus on the issue: how the independent, free, pluralistic media can answer to the threats to democracy. Because the populism undermines democracy in its nature: openness, dialogue, exchange of views, respect of diversity, critical thinking.

How they will be able to overcome the MANIPULATIVE, EMOTIONAL PROPAGANDA, fake news ecosystem, the extremely polarised society as a result of this populist efforts, the dominance of the world of misinformation in the broad sense.

The misinformation creates the disinformation, the disinformation creates misunderstandings. Misunderstandings correlated with the post-truth factors undermine the TRUST.

And in the worst case scenario – there are no clear, credible reference points for shaping the public opinion.

As it should be:

– when we see the media freedom, pluralism and independence as crucial components of the right to freedom of expression and access to the true information

–  when we see, that media play an essential role in democratic society by acting as public watchdogs, while helping to inform and empower citizens and fostering citizens’ participation in the democratic life.

What we need – is, THIRDLY:

THE REIMAGINED JOURNALISM AS  A RESPONSE

We have to reimagine journalism and find a proper national and European framework for this objective. It is crucial to raise the position and status of journalism and journalists and ensure safety and security for their work (which also means – proper conditions for all their rights).

It is important to understand the modern conditions for the quality of journalism and the new composition of all INFORMATION ACTORS: journalists, publishers, investigative journalists, citizen journalists, as well as the work of bloggers, social media activists, human rights defenders, properly protected whistleblowers and responsible digital media platform providers.

It is clear, that we are talking not only about the freedoms and rules for the audiovisual market, but first of all – about the significance of the fundamental rights!

FOURTHLY,

The IMPARTIALITY of media is one of the key challenges.

This is addressed especially to the public media, which should not be exclusively for the partisan messages and ruling parties’ narratives, or for authoritarian regimes and governmental propaganda – as it is now in Poland, Hungary and can be in a short time in some other countries.

In this case – the public media outlets are dividing and polarising society by conveying only one kind of message – pro-governmental, pro-partisan using the tools of populism.

It should be obvious, that public media have to SERVE ALL CITIZENS, democracy and democratic societies as opposed to satisfying the interests of governments in power. It is clear that all channels and discourses should be open for all views, various opinions and fact checking procedures.

The responsibility of editors should be strengthen. It is not so easy in the European Union, because it depends on the national environment, more on the political and cultural habits, than only the legal frameworks.

But I want to repeat it once again: there is a PUBLIC OBLIGATION for public authorities to ensure the legal framework, which fosters the development of free, independent, pluralistic media.

FIFTHLY,

A little on FREE MEDIA MARKET

To ensure the impartiality of media market is ever more difficult, especially if we are talking about private networks. We need to asses: what is the most important for the current and future role of media?

To be under a strong influence of marketisation processes and principles (for market position and profits) – which can lead to a further tabloidisation, or to find an equilibrium between market needs (crucial for business models)  and the value oriented media, with incentives for a trustworthy content.

There is no systemic contradiction between free market rules for media and trustworthy journalism. Only one condition is needed: the market rules should be based on competition in the positive and transparent sense. This should be the safeguard for free media. It means, that all measures for – so called deconcentration of media, as it was discussed and made in Hungry and as it is discussed from time to time in Poland – should be treated as an attack on free media.

On the other hand the problem of concentration of media and their extreme one-dimensional politicisation – also exists.

The key issue is: to ensure the BALANCE BETWEEN COMMERCIAL GOALS AND MEDIA FREEDOM DUTIES, to bring together business and values – building the fundamental trust. In this context, we have to come back to the debate on funding PUBLIC MISSION AS A COMMON GOOD in pluralistic media.

In addition – it is at the same time related to the TV and radio programs, newspaper networks and to the digital platforms with independent sources of information and with clear opportunity for users to choose their own way in looking for sources of information, not to be driven by algorithms all the time.

The ACCESSABILITY of citizens to all true, verified data and information via pluralistic media is essential as citizens’ right.

SIXTHLY,

what kind of obstacles for the accessibility we meet?  

The crucial challenge is to ensure the accessibility of journalists to all sources of information, especially to public information, to the information from public administrations – to properly hold authorities accountable.

In recent days, in Poland the Speaker of the Lower Chamber of the Parliament decided to restrict and limit the access of journalists to the building of the Parliament.

The decision to restrict journalists’ access to the Polish Parliament is a blow to democracy. It is an example of how the authorities, using a unlawful tool, want to silence the critical media.

One of democracy’s most important condition is the right of citizens to be informed in the impartial manner.

Journalistic duty is to give witness to social and political events. This is why journalists in the Polish Parliament cannot be missing from where the political and legislative discussions are taking place. No one can restrict journalists’ access to the parliament and the elected representatives of society – when they argue about different solutions. NO ACCESS TO SOURCES OF INFORMATION – is the EQUIVALENT OF CENSORSHIP.

It is also the case of limitation of citizens’ rights.

Because – journalists serve citizens, informing them about the work of the legislative authority. It is the foundation of democracy – transparency and freedom in presenting the work of institutions in power.

SEVENTHLY,

What can we really do at the European level?

We need:

– to strengthen the role of the independent monitoring mechanisms, develop tools such as the Media Pluralism Monitor and the Council of Europe Platform  for the Protection of Journalism and Safety of Journalists.

– to call on Member States to set up an independent and impartial regulatory body, in cooperation with journalists’ organisations, for monitoring, documenting and reporting on violence and threats against journalists and to deal with the protection and safety of journalists at national level.

– to support and broaden the scope of activities of the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom – especially of its legal support to journalists under threat.

– to develop at the European level and national levels all measures key for media literacy development. If we want to have media freedom as a meaningful factor to keep democracy in Europe, we should find a new framework for the media literacy growth.

– to find proper solutions for the digital, convergent media  – to establish adequate rules to defend the values and to avoid the fake news ecosystem development. It relates to the fight against: the hate speech, the lack of responsibility for media content in the digital channels, the usage of no name accounts to create the misinformation messages.  

– to combine the efforts to defend democracy by free media and free civic society organisations. These last ones are crucial to shape citizens’ attitudes, especially at the local level by the new financial tool – the European Value Instrument, addressed to the NGOs directly from the European level.

THE LAST POINT,

As you can see – three issues are crucial for the media freedom and pluralism.

The proper legal and institutional environment defending the quality of journalism, the adequate media market rules allowing for joint – business and trustworthy development of various media networks, the democratic support for media freedom and media literacy by civic society organisations keeping the democratic values.

For this purpose – we need to emphasise the SHARED RESPONSIBILITY of lawmakers, journalists, publishers and Internet intermediaries, but also of citizens as consumers of information.