Analysing the impact to media freedom of the COVID-19 Pandemic

The briefing paper, Media Freedom Violations in the EU under COVID-19, drafted by IPI, as part of the MFRR, shows how in a short space of time, several states have implemented emergency laws and restrictions which challenge the ability of journalists to inform the public and hold those in power to account.

The research, which covers both EU members states and candidate countries, highlights four broad themes:

  • disproportionate emergency measures, in particular excessive regulation against disinformation,
  • restrictions on access to information,
  • verbal and physical attacks risking the safety of journalists, and
  • surveillance and privacy threats.

Analyses show many of the most serious violations are in central and Eastern Europe, where some governments have a poor record in protecting media freedoms and risk using the health pandemic to unnecessarily tighten control over the flow of information.

As expected, the worst violations have taken place in states where press freedom crackdowns were already well underway, such as Hungary, Serbia and Turkey.

Worryingly however, other states have also seen restrictions on journalists, either through limiting access to information or a rise in verbal physical attacks on journalists reporting on the COVID-19 lockdown measures.

The briefing was shared today with Věra Jourová, the Vice President of the European Commission for Values and Transparency. IPI will continue to produce briefings for the EU Commission Members of European Parliament (MEPs) over the coming weeks and months.