Focus on Belarus, Turkey, Hungary, Ukraine
While the attention of press freedom monitors is usually directed at parts of the world where censorship runs rampant and where journalists are regularly jailed, attacked and killed, Europe – where many countries have long been viewed as bastions of free expression – is backsliding on media freedom issues. Currently, a number of Council of Europe member states exhibit poor and deteriorating records on media freedom, raising concerns not only over the state of free expression but of democracy itself. These concerns demonstrate why it is crucial that media freedom organizations such as the International Press Institute (IPI), which advocates for press freedom worldwide, and its affiliate, the South East Europe Media Organisation (SEEMO), which addresses press freedom issues in countries located in South East Europe, monitor not only authoritarian countries, but those in their own backyard, and, in the event of grave concerns, react promptly, efficiently and effectively.
To that end, IPI, in cooperation with SEEMO, has created a Europe Watch List, which will examine countries in Europe that give rise to such deep concerns. Although the List focuses on particular countries to increase its impact, that limitation is not a suggestion that other countries lack similar concerns, but a reflection of IPI and SEEMO’s view that media freedom in these four particular countries is under major threat. The List – to which other countries will be added, as needed – is not an academic study, but an effort to shine the spotlight on the regimes that run these countries, and to gain media attention in order to send the message that IPI and SEEMO continue to be present, active and engaged in Europe.