New Media Freedom Poll shows worries amongst citizens of the Visegrád Group
A new poll released on Monday (24 April) by the Committee for Editorial Independence and Reporters Without Borders Austria highlights the increasing concern of the population over the freedom of the press in the V4 countries (Poland, Hungary, Czech Republic and Slovakia).
The research was led by Dr Václav Stetka, and gathered answers of over 4,000 people, collected by online questioning or by telephone. The project was commissioned by the Committee for Editorial Independence with the support of the Bakala Foundation, after the assessment that the audience perspective had been largely missing from the debates. It was carried out by the research agency MEDIAN for the second consecutive year.
The research aims to answer the following questions: how concerned are people about the state of media freedom, have concerns increased since last year, what do people think should be done to protect media freedom and to support independent journalism and what is the perceived importance of certain values associated with journalistic work. The findings were presented in the the Gazeta Wyborcza’s headquarters in Warsaw.
During the introductory speech, editor-in-chief of the newspaper Adam Michnik reminded us that freedom of speech is constantly attacked by authoritarian voices and opinions.
“The more room for the media, the less for dictatorship.”
The poll found that with the exception of Slovakia, older people are on average more concerned than younger group age about the state of media freedom, as well as voters of parties currently in opposition. Respondents expressed significantly more concerns about the state of media freedom in their respective countries compared to a year before. The biggest percentage is found in Poland with 71% of the respondents worried, followed by Slovakia with 62%.
In Poland and Hungary, the government is seen as the biggest threat, and political independence of substancial importance, especially that of public service media (PSM). Following is the threat of control of the media by business owners, advertisers or other commercial interests, highest in Czech Republic and Slovakia.
Across all the V4, editorial autonomy and political independence are perceived as necessary to the safeguard of media freedom. The majority of people all in four countries believe that the media they consume should not display a link to a political party. In Poland, the perceived concern about political independence of the media has increased by +5 percentage point (pp) in comparison with 2022, data that could be explained by the next elections in autumn.
The report also highlights the support of the public for a greater media ownership transparency and the limitation of media ownership concentration, an increase from last year.
On the other hand, when asked if newsrooms should or not always be able to decide what to write without any external interference, the share of people who agree with that statement has declined from 2022 to 2023 ; the biggest drop being in the Czech Republic with -9pp year-on-year.
Digital platforms are an important source of concern, the survey finds. Data show that the majority of people think online content should boost visibility of trustworthy sources that are known to disseminate information. While most people globally agree that online content should be regulated to prevent the spreading of hate speech, not all agree that the European Union should interfere.
Most people are in favour of stronger national legislation to safeguard media independence and freedom. Vice-President of the European Commission Věra Jourová, who took part of the conversation from Brussels, mentioned the importance of the European Media Freedom Act (EMFA).
“With the EMFA, we are trying to create a high level of legal certainty so that no one will interfere with editorial content. This law should serve as a safety net, and we are including the digital platforms,” she said.