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Media Freedom Poll 2023 - Presentation in Warsaw

"The more room for the media, the less for the dictatorship.",177150,29682349,jak-wyglada-wolnosc-mediow-w-krajach-grupy-wyszehradzkiej-debata.html?_ga=2.85946906.2054234084.1682335947-1041702275.1681759042&disableRedirects=true#S.TD-K.C-B.1-L.1.duzy

You can watch the whole presentation on this link above or here:

Concerns about government interference are greatest in Poland and Hungary 

The state of media freedom in the Visegrad Group countries 

Poland and Slovakia show the greatest concern about the state of media freedom, according to an international opinion poll conducted in the Visegrad Group countries. - 

The more space for the media, the less for the dictatorship - said the editor-in-chief of the Wyborcza daily, Adam Michnik, during the presentation of the results. 

The initiative of this meeting, our Czech colleagues, focuses on two important symbols: the first is the Visegrad Community, and the second is the freedom of the media - this is how Adam Michnik, editor-in-chief of "Gazeta Wyborcza", opened the conference presenting the results of the Media Freedom Poll research on freedom and media independence in the Visegrad Group countries. 

The editor-in-chief of "Wyborcza" mentioned his work in the underground publishing house "Krytyka", with which democratic oppositionists from Czechoslovakia and Hungary cooperated, including Miklos Haraszti and Vaclav Havel. 

After Adam Michnik's speech, the Media Freedom Poll 2023 study was presented. Václav Stetka from the Czech Republic, a representative of the Committee of Independent Publishers, took care of it. In the last year's edition of the survey, it turned out that half of the citizens of the Visegrad Group have concerns about the freedom of the media in their countries (the highest in Poland - 63%, the lowest in the Czech Republic - 47%). 71 percent of respondents at that time supported strengthening national laws to effectively protect media independence. Respondents were asked whether they are concerned about media freedom, how they perceive the state of media freedom in their country, how important it is for them that news media can operate without state/government interference or censorship, how important it is that news media can operate without being unduly influenced by their owners or business interests, how they perceive media diversity, ownership transparency, etc. 

The initiator of the study is the Editorial Independence Committee of the Czech media house Economia, supported by Reporters without Borders, and the study was commissioned by the Bakala foundation. In 2022, Poland was ranked 66th in the World Press Freedom Index prepared by the Reporters Without Borders organization. The Czech Republic (20th) and Slovakia (27th) were ranked higher, and Hungary (85th) below. The ranking covered 180 countries. – What should we do to keep the media free – asks Václav Stetka? Stetka points out that regulations are crucial, including supranational and EU regulations that protect the media and media owners. – A huge part of the respondents agree that the fight against disinformation and fake news is also a very important issue – emphasizes Stetka. 

After Václav Stetka's performance, Vera Jourova, Vice-President of the European Commission for Transparency, appeared on the screen. The Commission is working on a European Media Freedom Act, the draft text of which was adopted in September 2022. – Independent media are necessary to maintain the balance of power. Free media control not only the government, but also business, noted Jourova. In her opinion, strong free media protect citizens, ordinary people from those who have power. – A big threat is the attack on the media by the government. Saying that the media is lying is a form of destroying the independence of the media, explains Jourova, giving examples from the election campaign in the Czech Republic. – We will support and protect independent media in every country – added Jourova and assured that the European Commission upholds media freedom. 

There were questions from the audience from the floor. Michał Wawrykiewicz, an attorney associated with the Free Courts initiative, asked about the legal protection of the media. Are free media possible without free courts? – The Commission is still looking at the rule of law in Poland – reminded Jourova and confirmed that there is no concern for independent media without ensuring the independence of the media. 

The twisted logic of the government media 

Bartosz T. Wieliński spoke about the pressure on independent media, e.g. on attempts to hit TVN, as well as about the "subscription revenge" of the government. The government forced public institutions to cancel subscriptions to "Gazeta Wyborcza". The deputy editor-in-chief also said that attacks on independent media are part of the political struggle. – 

The ruling party knows that by fighting independent media, it secures its power – he explained. The fact that, unfortunately, it looks similar in Hungary, said Veronika Munk, a journalist of the Telex portal. – In Hungary, there are almost exclusively independent media in the form of Internet portals. This is the result of political pressure and related business - says Munk. 

Martin Ehl from the Czech "Hospodárskch novin" reminded that it is very important to convince readers, to emphasize how important independent media are to them. – Encouraging to subscribe, to pay for content is also building awareness – he added. 

Dorota Nygren, associated with the organization Reporters Without Borders, talks about the great danger of illusion created by public media associated with power. – In the public media you can hear that there is finally pluralism, that the recipients have a choice – notes Nygren and adds that according to the public media "this is how democracy works", although of course no one mentions that public media are supported by huge government subsidies. Instead, they become a tube of power. 

Erhard Stacki, also associated with Reporters Without Borders, said that in countries such as Austria, which are associated with media freedom and independence, you can see political pressure on the media. He mentioned a journalistic investigation targeting the now-former Austrian government. – The European Commission should support all media, not only in the Visegrad Group countries, but also in Austria and Germany – he explained. According to Stackl, the transparency and independence of the media in one EU country affects other countries. 

Vaclav Pecha, representative of the Bakala foundation, emphasized that although free media can be attacked in many countries, the worst situation is in Poland and Hungary, which are drifting towards the Russian "media model". The audience asked about the responsibility of media owners for free media, e.g. German concern Axel Springer, which owns many media in Poland. Will business interests be more important than defending freedom of speech? The audience also pointed out that the defense of free media should not end with debates like this one, and talking about the importance of free media more broadly should be the basis.