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22. 10. 2014

Media in SEE marred by ownership concentration, lack of solidarity and fear of job loss

Monopolies, non-transparent means of finance, weak unions, no possibility of coming together with other journalists, cliques and closed professional networks are among the main factors obstructing media freedom in Italy, Southeast Europe and Turkey. These are some of the preliminary findings of a research by Professor Eugenia Siapera from the School of Communications at the Dublin City University, carried out as part of the Safety Net for European Journalists* project.

The results were made available at the VIII Southeast Europe Media Forum 2014 (SEEMF 2014) organised by the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO) in Skopje, Macedonia on 16-18 October.

Journalists in the region work in an environment where business interests prevail on free information, directly through stakes or indirectly via advertising money, emerged from the research based on 110 in-depth interviews with journalists. Moreover, despite the existence of legislation regulating media transparency in many countries, owners seem to find a way to bypass it by selling their stakes to people under their control.

Lack of solidarity among journalists is another serious problem. In many cases, journalists who suffered violations do not encounter support from their colleagues or professional organisations. Trade unions are weak and professionals do not view them as a point of support; on the contrary, in many cases they are suspected of serving the government's interests. Strong ownership concentration and affiliation with political and business interests is another source of rivalry between journalists. "If you're working for two different owners, your colleague is actually your biggest enemy," Zrinka Vrabec Mojzeš - who joined Croatian President Ivo Josipovic's team as adviser for social affairs in 2010 after having worked as reporter, editor and anchor for her country's Radio 101 for 26 years - told Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso (OBC) on the sidelines of SEEMF2014.

The fear of losing their jobs, especially amid the global economic and financial crisis, is widespread among journalists. This fear serves as a strong tool used by owners to control their employees and the contents they produce. Physical violence, slander, trolling, hacking, cyber-bullying, and sexual harassment are also common forms of threats. They vary in their intensity among different countries, but are present everywhere.

Raising public awareness and providing concrete support to journalists is exceptionally important in this situation. "Media freedom is important not just for journalists, but mostly for citizens as it is part of their right to obtain balanced and true information," OBC's Francesca Vanoni said.

*About the project:

Safety Net for European Journalists is an EU-supported initiative aimed at supporting threatened journalists in 11 countries (Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Greece, Italy, Macedonia, Montenegro, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia and Turkey). It is implemented by Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso in partnership with SEEMOOssigeno Informazione, Professor Eugenia Siapera (Dublin City University) and involves a broad network of media partners in South and South-East Europe.

For further information, materials, or interviews, please do not hesitate to contact us at: press@balcanicaucaso.org or or borisova@balcanicaucaso.org. 

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