Survey says: Tough time for EU journalists


BRUSSELS -- Violence, intimidation, manipulation and censorship have combined to force media freedom into retreat in Europe according to a survey published by the Association of European Journalists.

The AEJ's survey, released Thursday in Brussels, reveals that a widespread erosion of media freedom, as well as public trust in the media, is under way in many parts of Europe.

"The resulting picture is cause for concern," it said. "Although some free and vigorous media can be said to flourish in all but a handful of the countries covered, the survey reveals a picture of a profession and an industry beset by problems of political interference, economic weakness and uneven or doubtful professional standards."

The survey reveals a common pattern: Journalists and news organizations face multiple barriers to their work from restrictive laws, intervention by government authorities and a mixture of overt and unseen pressures to manipulate or distort their work.

The picture is particularly dire in Eastern Europe, with Russia the stand-out country when it comes to intimidation, corruption and restrictions, it said. "Russia is very much at the heart of the cancer we need to address," said William Horsley, who edited the report for the AEJ. Horsley, a former BBC foreign correspondent, said the 2006 murder in Moscow of campaigning reporter Anna Politkovskaya was only one of many killings in journalists in Russia in recent years.

The survey also highlights clashes between governments and the media and reveals the unseen ways in which the powerful can shape the media landscape, for example president Nicolas Sarkozy in France or in Italy under the former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

"The situation is especially troubling with respect to public TV and radio broadcasting in many countries, where little or no pretence is made to preserve the independence of broadcast news and programs from political influence or control," the survey said.