UNESCO have presented the World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development Report at the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) forum “Agenda for change - developing independent media in the digital age in Eurasia”, held from 24 to 26 September 2014 in Kiev, Ukraine.
The meeting gathered GFMD members as well as international media support organizations and advocacy leaders who are active in the region. Participants discussed the UNESCO report as well as the Post 2015 Development Agenda. Remaining challenges that independent media face in view of social and political events that are shaping the Eurasia region such as the digital switchover, the shrinking space for Internet freedom and regional trends of media development were also debated.
UNESCO publication, World Trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development, offers a new look at recent evolutions in media freedom, independence, pluralism and journalist safety. The report also includes six regional overviews, one of them focusing on Central and Eastern Europe.
While discussing the Central and Eastern European regional trends participants reiterated that the region is very diverse, thus it is difficult to single out trends, which are the same in all 25 countries. Nevertheless it was noticed that the momentum of progress has slowed with the past six years, seeing a shift to stasis or decline of media freedom rather than improvement.
At the same time, there also has been a visible trend towards improving media legislation, particularly the decriminalization of defamation and access to information, to bring it in line with international standards. However implementation remained to be problematic and impunity has remained common. Propaganda replacing journalism was mentioned as one of the key treats to the development of media based on principles of independence, pluralism and freedom.
During the discussion participants concurred with the conclusions of the regional overview of Central and Eastern Europe that recent economic crisis has negatively influenced the media. The rapid spread of the Internet and social media has broadened opportunities to enjoy media freedom, even as it has resulted in increased pressure against online journalists through digital control.
The meeting has been organized by the Association of Independent Broadcasters of Ukraine, Free Press Unlimited, and the Global Forum for Media Development (GFMD) with the support of The Open Society Foundations and the European Endowment for Democracy.