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Press Freedom

Media capture on the rise, UNESCO report finds

December 14, 2020

On the occasion of the 2020 World Press Freedom Conference, UNESCO has published a study on world trends in freedom of expression and media development.

UNESCO Report zur Einflussnahme auf Medien
Image: Marc James

The 'Reporting Facts': Free from Fear or Favour' report identifies media control in the form of media capture as a great menace to journalistic independence and professional standards. Governments and powerful interest groups aim to increase their influence on media, which, according to the study, led to the shrinking of journalistic autonomy and undermines journalism as a public good.

While state-administered media is naturally at greater risk to be influenced, this especially goes for countries where the rule of law is not upheld. Controversial calls for action to reform public service ­­­media have taken place to influence editorial control or funding mechanisms — sometimes both. The report suggests that this can end in the morphing of public service media into state propaganda channels.

Gaining influence on the private media sector is described as the most complex approach, as different investors, including foreign groups, control the outlet. In 2020, such methods have been often seen in parts of Central and Eastern Europe. The most recent example is the Polish oil company Orlen, partially owned by the government, buying 'Polska Press,' a media outlet consisted of 120 regional newspapers and 500 news websites.

The full report can be found here. The next edition of the World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development main report is expected to be published at the end of 2021.

Polen Bydgoszcz | Polska Press
The Polska Press media group owns a large number of prominent outlets in the countryImage: Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto/picture alliance