Friday, April 06, 2012

Media: Increasing Political Control of the Media Seen in Europe and Eurasia


The 2012 edition of IREX's Media Sustainability Index (MSI) for Europe and Eurasia measures the struggles and triumphs of the media sector in 21 transitioning countries from Croatia to Kazakhstan. Evidence from local media experts shows overall stability in the media sector. Increasing use of digital and social media gives hope for expanding freedom of expression. However, reported backsliding in several countries, partly due to the increased political control of media, concerns the experts. See for the full report.

Croatia received the highest score overall. Kyrgyzstan returned to the top spot in Central Asia as the political situation there stabilized. Among Caucasus countries, Armenia maintained its leading score despite a slight slide. Georgia regained lost ground and made a stronger showing in news plurality.

Albania, Bulgaria, and Macedonia's lower scores reflect politicized editorial policies at respected media outlets caught in a wave of divestment by west European media conglomerates. Bought by local tycoons, these media began to promote political causes.

Despite pro-Putin dominance of Russian media, after opposition protests over elections, independent and state media found more leeway. "After December 10, things started to move. Even federal television channels started to show faces that had not been approved officially," said MSI panelist Boris Timoshenko from the Glasnost Defense Foundation. Media experts expressed cautious optimism for the future, although difficult obstacles remain and the post-election period will determine the relationship between the regime and the media.

Belarus, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, whose governments impose strict controls on free expression and other human rights, ranked at the bottom again this year.

The MSI's unique methodology measures journalism quality, media management practices, news plurality, press freedom, and supporting institutions. Journalists, media advocates, academics, and related professionals evaluate the media in their own country. "From a correspondent in rural Tajikistan, to a blogger in Baku, or a Tirana marketing analyst," said Leon Morse, managing editor of the MSI, "MSI panelists are selected to present a multi-faceted perspective of the media sector."

The U.S. Agency for International Development funds IREX's publication of three regional editions of the MSI covering Europe and Eurasia, Africa, and the Middle East. It is a trusted evaluation of global media health, providing donors, media advocates, local professionals, and scholars a decade-plus of rich data.