Pandemic Worsens Crisis for Media in Central, Eastern Europe – Balkan Insight - Freelance Rack

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Friday, July 3, 2020

Pandemic Worsens Crisis for Media in Central, Eastern Europe – Balkan Insight

The COVID-19 pandemic in nine countries of Central and Eastern Europe has caused major difficulties to the media in continuing their work, especially the print media, and has further undermined press freedom, a report published on Friday by the Berlin-based media NGO n-ost said.

The report looks at the situation facing the media in Bulgaria, Croatia, the Czech Republic, Hungary, North Macedonia, Poland, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia.

Its main conclusions are that the pandemic has accelerated the transition from print to online media, but that “recent surges in online readership have not translated into more financial stability”.

It said that the “lockdowns have caused print media sales and advertising revenue to collapse” and that “various emergency laws and provisions allowed governments increased control over public information”.

While the economic situation differs from country to country, the situation in each with regards to media freedom tends to be similar.

The majority of governments in the region, it said, have used the health situation to tighten control over the information flow, limiting access to COVID-19-related data beyond those officially announced, for example.

Some countries, like Serbia or Hungary, passed laws or regulations penalizing reporting on unauthorized information.

Some media outlets in Bulgaria either cut pay for journalists during the crisis, or fired staff, or shut down entire newsrooms.

The situation is especially hard for Bulgarian regional publications, “which have been struggling to stay afloat for years, [and] are expected to bear the brunt of the coronavirus-related crisis”, the report said.

According to the same report, the COVID-19 pandemic has also hit freelance journalists in Croatia hard.

“According to a survey conducted by the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists in April, 28.7 per cent of 164 freelance journalists surveyed had had all their assignments (and 26 per cent most of their assignments) cancelled since the beginning of the crisis,” the report said.

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