New Reports Detail Lack of Progress in Fight Against Soft Censorship
Soft censorship continues to be a major threat to press freedom and the governments of Hungary, Mexico and Serbia appear unwilling to follow recommendations that would guarantee a non-discriminatory allocation of public funds and government advertising across the media.
This is the common conclusion of three new reports examining soft censorship practices in Hungary, Mexico and Serbia launched today by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA) in Washington D.C.
Official soft censorship, or indirect censorship, is defined as “an array of official actions intended to influence media output, short of legal or extra-legal bans, direct censorship of specific content, or physical attacks on media outlets or media practitioners.”
Published with the support of the Open Society Foundations and research partners Mertek Media Monitor (Hungary), BIRN Serbia, and Fundar (Mexico), the three new reports provide an updated analysis of the situation as uncovered in detailed country studies conducted in 2013.
By using financial power to pressure media outlets, punish critical reporting and reward favourable coverage, biased government intervention in media sectors across the three countries not only distorts the market, but also makes it difficult for media to exercise their essential watchdog role.
“Articles of Asphyxiation: Soft Censorship in Hungary 2015 Update” shows that pressures on free and independent media in Hungary are accelerating and that the Fidesz government is enacting new and ever-broader laws and regulations that aim to control media output. The introduction of an advertising tax and other recently passed laws, together with the unfair and opaque allocation of government advertising show that intervention in the media market aggressively increased throughout 2014 and the first half of 2015.
Through more detailed research into soft censorship practices globally, WAN-IFRA and CIMA are drawing attention to the kinds of widespread and deleterious problems facing independent media that rarely generate the same level of international outrage as direct attacks on the press. The findings and recommendations of the soft censorship research series aim to contribute to the implementation of fair and transparent rules that are necessary for the development of independent media sectors around the world.
Country reports detailing soft censorship practices in Bulgaria, Macedonia and Montenegro are currently being finalised and will be published later in 2015.
WAN-IFRA also collects and regularly publishes updated information on the misuse of financial and administrative powers to manipulate reporting, which can be found – together with the soft censorship report series – online at www.softcensorship.org and on the Twitter feed @SoftCensorship. All materials are free to download and share.
WAN-IFRA, based in Paris, France, and Frankfurt, Germany, with subsidiaries in Singapore and India, is the global organisation of the world’s newspapers and news publishers. It represents more than 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries. Its core mission is to defend and promote press freedom, quality journalism and editorial integrity and the development of prosperous businesses.