European Federation of Journalists

Fact-finding mission report to the Baltics published

A new report about the fact-finding mission conducted by the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ) and the European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF), which investigated the media situation in Estonia and Lithuania from 22 to 24 January, was published on 9 April 2018.

Members of the mission interviewed almost 30 experts: representatives of the government, academia, press councils, public service media, journalists‘ organisations, investigative journalists, editors-in-chief and CEOs of major media companies.

The two Baltic states were chosen in the wake of a wave of disinformation spread by Russian specialists during the US election campaign. The question, whether the comparatively small societies of Estonia and Lithuania could be polarised and destabilised by so-called fake news, was on the table. This seemed to be even more likely as all of them have Russian-speaking minorities in their countries.

Findings of the report show that on media freedom and pluralism, Estonia and Lithuania are doing comparatively well. But media concentration is high. In Lithuania, public service media is under great political pressure.

According to the mission’s findings, the biggest problem is neither fake news nor Russian propaganda, but the economic pressure on media that opens the door to “paid articles”.

EFJ director Renate Schroeder, says:

For me it was extremely interesting to look deeper into the challenges for journalists in two smaller countries which have – besides its similarities – very different approaches to media and journalism. Considering the rapid growth of internet penetration and the business model of high clicks, one can expect that quality of content will further deteriorate. Training for all journalists from both language communities, investment in media literacy and support for diversity and pluralism are essential for the future of journalism and journalists in this region.

The mission participants included EFJ director Renate Schroeder, EFJ vice president Nadezda Azhgikhina and ECPMF managing director Lutz Kinkel. This project was supported by the European Commission. An Estonian translation of the report can be found here.

Photo credit: Dainius Radzevičius