BRUSSELS – Over half of Europeans consider their national media outlets not free from political or commercial pressure, according to a European Commission report published on Thursday.
An EC report titled “2016 Eurobarometer Survey on Media Pluralism and Democracy” found that 57 percent of Europeans held this view.
It also revealed that 75 percent of respondents who engaged in social media discussions had seen or experienced online abuse, hate speech or threats and almost half (48 percent) said they were discouraged from engaging in further debates as a result.
A total of 28,000 citizens across 28 countries participated in the survey.
The study painted a mixed picture of media pluralism and freedom across the European Union.
On the positive side, the majority in each member state thought their national media provided a diversity of views and opinions.
However, despite diversity of the media, the majority of respondents said neither their national nor public service media were free and independent.
Furthermore, almost three in ten thought their national media was less free and independent than five years ago.
Media independence and trust in the information provided by the media often went hand in hand.
In France, Greece, and Spain, for instance, respondents were much less likely to think their national media was free from political and commercial pressure, and were much less likely to consider that national media provided trustworthy information.
The Eurobarometer showed only 53 percent of Europeans trusted their mass media and 60 percent considered the public media was not immune to political pressures.
Radio was considered the most trustworthy news format, while television and printed media were trusted by 55 percent of respondents.
The report also took into consideration social media, including social networks and blogs, which were considered trustworthy for 32 percent.
“Free and pluralistic media are the backbone of our democratic societies,” said EC First Vice President Frans Timmermans, adding that “without quality media, public debate cannot flourish.
“That’s why we need to ensure that journalists can do their jobs in full freedom,” he continued.
Timmermans spoke ahead of the opening of the EC second Annual Colloquium on Fundamental Rights, a two-day event focusing on “Media Pluralism and Democracy.”