News Journalists struggle to work free from fear or favour, new UNESCO study says

As part of the 2020 celebration of World Press Freedom Day, UNESCO is releasing a preview of a forthcoming study on media independence.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to light the importance of free and independent media in reporting verified information to the public and in holding public authorities to account.

Yet, as the preview of a new UNESCO study assesses, in recent years the news media have faced increased challenges to editorial independence. This is especially through ‘media capture’ in which media are skewed by private and state groups that abuse systems of regulation, ownership, advertising and finance.

The resulting damage to the integrity of editorial independence has compromised the ability of many media workers to provide the public with vital information.

The culmination of these and other controls means that journalists seeking to follow professional standards have to stave off pressures and attacks from external actors as well navigate power in their own outlets

While the study shows how threats to professional independence have intensified, it also highlights the multiple efforts and initiatives that have proven successful in safeguarding independent journalism, and provides recommendations for all stakeholder groups.

It underlines the importance of journalists standing up for professional standards, particularly in the context of disinformation.

The full study, titled Reporting Facts: Free from Fear or Favour, will be published later this year as an In Focus edition of the series World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development.

On Tuesday, 5 May, as part of the commemoration of World Press Freedom Day, UNESCO will organize a webinar Media Independence in Times of Crisis, which will discuss the key findings of the study in light of the current public health crisis.

In the webinar, the study’s author, Marius Dragomir (Director of the Center for Media, Data and Society at the Central European University), will be joined by prominent journalists and civil society representatives in a conversation about both the long-running challenges related to media capture by public and private interests, as well as the current challenges to press freedom and editorial independence brought forth by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The webinar will be held on Tuesday from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. CET via zoom. Participants can register by sending an email to [email protected](link sends e-mail) with the subject line: ‘Media Independence in Times of Crisis’.