Is Media Capture the Chief Culprit in Hindering Media Independence?

Greta Bitante, Nadine Lakhal, Jinhong Park, Laura Sanz, Mengzhi Zeng, Ieva Zinovičiūtė

Without any doubt, media capture has quickly become one of the world’s most difficult and intractable problems. In a growing number of countries, collusion between governments and wealthy media owners is becoming the preferred method of political consolidation and for maintaining the power of a small elite. Aggravated by the economic weakness of the traditional news business and the growing concentration of ownership of media industries, media capture has become one of the major tools for undermining democratic societies and handing them over to authoritarian rule.

It is well known that in some authoritarian regimes, media are often biased. The lack of media independence generally has to do with media capture by political interests. In countries such as Turkey, Russia or Egypt, media outlets are mostly state-owned and the content being published is strictly controlled, which goes totally against democratic values and freedom of expression. However, media capture is not the same as censorship imposed from a State, since it operates through collaboration between media owners and the State. As Andrew Finkel argues, captured media often chases its audiences with screaming headlines, political intrigue, with the aim of influencing a large number of people while maintaining the favour of the Government.

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Press Freedom Status in Turkey: From Free to Not Free

Anna-Katharina Ahnefeld, Oyumaa Batsukh, Merve Keçeli, Yu-Hsuan Lin and Man Wai Tam

Independent journalism in Turkey is now at its darkest moment. In merely a decade, the country has turned from a place with improving press freedom to a prison for journalists. In 2004, Turkey stood 98 among 167 countries on the press freedom ranking released by Reporters Without Borders. In 2018, the number dropped to 157. The drastic decline in press freedom, together with the rising authoritarian ruling, has made Turkey the most freedom-deteriorating country in the world.

As of May 11, there are 192 journalists jailed, 142 wanted in Turkey. While the upcoming Presidential Election on June 24 is showing intense competition, candidates from opposition parties are heavily oppressed and the Turkish media are forced to give unanimous voice.  Selahattin Demirtaş, presidential candidate from People’s Democratic Party (HDP), has been running his campaign from the jail. TRT (Turkish Radio and Television Corporation), the national broadcaster, is criticized for only broadcasting mass meetings held by the current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. Another candidate, Meral Akşener from İYİ Party, claims that news workers at a television channel were fired only because of broadcasting her mass meeting for 10 seconds.

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Being Responsible in the Age of Fake News

Catalina Barja, Elizabeth Castillo, Darya Chernokova, Alfonso Alonso Herrera, Hande Karasu and Sangam Silpakar

The internet revolution and the rise of Web 2.0 have not only disrupted society with abundance of information but also have empowered citizens by allowing them to participate in content generation process. Users are no longer passive participants of media. They not only create contents but reach millions of other people by self-mass communication through social networking sites. Unfortunately, such freedom has caused interference in the flow of information through the distribution of fake news.

Although the existence of fake news can be traced back to 1439 in the name of yellow journalism and propaganda, the term gained its popularity due to the US Presidential election in 2016. During this period, false news across the political spectrum gained more visibility in social media. A survey conducted by Eurobarometer in all the European Union member states in 2018 shows that online media users encounter more fake news than traditional media users. While the term ‘Fake News’ is believed to be a populist term, the High-Level Expert Group (HLEG) formed by the European Commission to tackle fake news has instead termed it ‘online disinformation’. Nevertheless, in a democratic era where everyone’s opinion is valued, who is to define what is true and false, as “one man’s fake news is another’s truth-telling”.

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Towards a Digital and Media-Literate Europe: a Long and Winding Road?

Lorin Akbiyik, Rovena Carvalho Ferreira, Rodelio Concepcion, Andira Figueroa Vargas, Sasha Miller, Sara Teklay

In the core of today’s digital society, social media reigns supreme. It combines social interactions, entertainment and source of news, not to mention that it created a shift from users as mere spectators to users also as creators of content. On your timelines you see not only posts from the friends, groups and pages that you follow (which normally already include a large amount of clickbait, but also, due to the work of algorithms, suggested posts come around often. To be able to comb through this sea of information floating around – which may include hate speech, fake news and other harmful content – and distinguish what are reliable sources or not, being a digital and media literate is paramount.

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Digital and media illiterates are easier prey to online fake news, senior citizens are considered more vulnerable in this scenario.

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Unconscious Writers, Unconscious Readers: Democracy Endangered

Lien Verstraeten, Jara Dichas, Melisa Zelaya & Robert Saura

On 12 January 2017, the European Parliament assessed a draft resolution relating to the regulation of automation and robots. However, until today, the EU has not implemented such legislation.

In a continuously changing digital era, the EU has mainly been focussing on protecting EU citizens; in 2016, the Union succeeded in approving the GDPR. The directive was designed to harmonise data privacy laws across the EU and to protect EU citizens’ data privacy.

“Greater efficiency can free up reporters from mundane tasks, but it can also warp what journalism is and what we want it to be”                    Carlson, 2018

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Tackling Transparency in the Facebook Era

Sofia Elanidou, Sofía Cisneros Gavín, Sarah Markewich, Pauline Ranscelot, Stefi Stampoulian, Hande Yılmaz

If we focus on solutions rather than on problems, “transparency” might be a good choice for the 2018 Word of the Year and a logical follow up to “fake news;” the 2017 winner.

Transparency Finally Takes Off,” is one of the 2018 “Predictions for Journalism” in Nieman Lab’s list via CUNY Journalism School’s Carrie Brown Smith. She says it’s time for the media to recognize the importance of showing “exactly how they work.

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The Digital Battlefield of News Production

C. Barbou, C. Barrios, I. Bobicev, D. Gryllou, A. Jareno, F. Mamic

Digitization has revealed a whole new world in the media industry: traditional print media, such as world famous newspapers like the Guardian, NY Times, Le Monde or popular magazines like National Geographic, Cosmopolitan and many others, are moving towards digital. As a result, the information we are receiving from all around the globe is instant, live and real…or maybe not?

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