Free Press Unlimited study on strategies for media resisting shrinking civic space

Journalist at work

Democracies and the Rule of Law are under attack worldwide, including in Europe. This is accompanied by a trend of shrinking civic space, which threatens independent media, and with that a pluralistic media landscape. How do we fight this? Free Press Unlimited published a study that examined the strategies through which independent media outlets in Europe resist and push back against shrinking civic space.

Where illiberal political actors increase there hold on power, the work of independent media becomes more and more challenging, but also more and more important than ever. They are needed to uncover and share information, reach wide audiences, and hold power holders to account. In this negative trend for press freedom, independent media must be part of the solution.

Five examples of push back in Europe

In the study, the challenges and strategies of independent media outlets who are experiencing the shrinking civic space in Europe are explored. It presents five case studies on specific media outlets in the countries Slovenia, Serbia, Romania, and Hungary. These describe the overall political context for the media, the specific challenges that the respective media outlet has faced, as well as the different strategies that they have used to meet these challenges.

Lessons learned

The study sheds light on the strategies these media used to push back, and what the advantages and disadvantages of these strategies were. Senior Knowledge Officer and research editor Tim Schoot Uiterkamp drew some important lessons for independent media out of this analysis: “Generally it is important for independent media to incorporate local content, also for national media to reach other demographics. Then they should defend credibility, know how not to take bait and always be very strict in verifying everything you publish. One mistake can be used to frame you.”

He continues: “Lastly it is important to engage audiences. When media embed themselves in a particular community, it can be helpful to gain access to information, but also to ensure impact.”

The study further describes the main strategies that media outlets can use to reach these objectives, for example certain verification processes and cross-border collaboration.

Webinar: Defending Media Pluralism

The study led to a webinar on 12 May hosted by Free Press Unlimited, called: Defending Media Pluralism. Two of the discussed media outlets are there to tell their story, and Tim Schoot Uiterkamp will introduce the study to several members of EU Commission and Parliament that are participating.

The participants in the webinar will discuss the strategies to defend media pluralism in European countries where the Rule of Law is under attack, and civic space is shrinking. How can policy makers support the viability of independent media in this context?

Read more about the webinar here.

Read the study here:


Photo: Paul Enkelaar

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