“The aim was not only to report on the crisis, but also to develop Europe-wide campaigns to respond to the emerging developments in individual countries.”

The European Dialogue actively organizes political exchange in Brussels, Prague and Madrid and develops liberal approaches to current challenges. A lively dialogue is based on tolerance and mutual understanding. The goal of our work is to promote these basic values and to develop them further through intercultural exchange.

The protection and promotion of press and media freedom is an ongoing task for liberals everywhere. Intimidation, arrest, and repressive laws designed to combat alleged false reporting are among the challenges that many European media professionals deal with on a daily basis.

In this context, the public health emergency resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic has created a dangerous opportunity for the expansion of authoritarian rule in European countries, where freedom of the media has been deteriorating sharply. In September 2020, the International Press Institute (IPI) had already identified 426 violations on media freedom in relation to reporting on COVID-19, 107 of them within Europe.

The need for free flow of information, both for informing the public on vital measures to contain the virus and in maintaining public scrutiny on those measures, was more essential than ever in 2020. However, the emergency measures that have been enacted across Europe have made media freedom and the free flow of information, too, more vulnerable than ever.

In order to shed light on the issues surrounding media freedom throughout the crisis, IPI teamed up with the FNF European Dialogue Programme (EDP) and the European Commission. The goal of this project was not only to document the crisis, but also to develop Europe-wide campaigns in response as well as targeted responses to emerging developments in individual countries.

The campaigning focussed primarily on EU policy makers and national governments to ensure that basic principles of the rule of law were not jeopardised by the 22 different modes of emergency powers announced across the continent at the beginning of the project. The awareness raising campaign was developed across social media and in a podcast. A circle of stringers monitored and reported on restrictions on press freedom and its impact across the EU, with a special focus on Central Europe & the Baltic States. Furthermore, IPI organised a series of country-based webinars and press briefings with independent journalist groups in focus countries and engaged EU political leaders in the advocacy process.

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