Research in the Visegrad Four countries found that the public supports EU measures on media freedom.
The first comprehensive survey of public attitudes towards media freedom in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia shows that 52% of people are concerned about the state of media freedom in their country. 71% of respondents support stronger national legislation to protect media independence and 59% of respondents agree with greater EU powers in protecting media freedom.
The survey also shows large regional differences. While attitudes towards media freedom in the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia are basically comparable, in Hungary, where the ruling party controls most of the country’s media, support for editorial autonomy and independence of public service media was significantly lower, according to the survey.
Compared to the other V4 countries, the Czech Republic has the highest proportion of people who consider media independence an important value (86%), the highest proportion of those who think that media owners should not interfere with editorial autonomy (62%), but also the lowest proportion of those who express concern about the state of media freedom (47%), and the lowest proportion of those who agree with economic support of the media by the state (25%, half as many as in Poland).
- Concerns about media freedom across the V4 countries. 52% of respondents expressed concern about the current state of media freedom (63% in Poland, 49% in Slovakia, 48% in Hungary and 47% in the Czech Republic).
- Greater understanding of media independence is expressed by those who rely more on online sources for information about political events. The survey found that people who read online news content are more likely to consider the values related to media freedom important. In Hungary and Poland, frequent reading of printed newspapers is associated with less positive views of media freedom and independence.
- Younger generations are less concerned than older people. In most of the V4 countries, young people are relatively less concerned about media freedom and independence. In Hungary, only 36% of 18-24 year olds expressed concern, compared to 61% in Poland. In Slovakia, the figure drops to 39%.
- Media freedom has become a deeply politicised issue. When asked whether they were very concerned about media freedom, 89% of the supporters of the Hungarian Democratic Coalition answered in the affirmative, while only 10% of Fidesz supporters expressed concern. In Poland, only 34% of PiS supporters consider media freedom to be a serious problem, while 90% of opposition supporters say they are concerned about it. In the Czech Republic, supporters of ANO or the far-right SPD are again much less likely to consider the values on which media freedom is based to be important than supporters of other parties.
23% of Slovaks believe that the state of media freedom has improved over the last five years, which is the highest percentage of all V4 countries. This opinion is more common among voters of OLANO (37%) and the PS/SPOLU coalition (51%), while only 8% of SMER voters agree with this opinion. Among the V4 nations, Slovaks are the most supportive of EU sanctions against countries where governments interfere with media freedom (64%).
90% of Polish Coalicja Obywatelska voters are “concerned” about the current state of media freedom, 52% are “very concerned” (top of the scale). 34% of Prawo i Sprawedliwość voters are concerned (42% are not concerned), 7% are very concerned. 87% of Koalicja Obywatelska voters are against the government’s influence on public media news compared to only 47% of PiS voters.
When asked if they were “very concerned” about media freedom, 89% of the supporters of the Hungarian Democratic Coalition answered in the affirmative compared to only 10% of Fidesz supporters. Media freedom is “absolutely important” for only 34% of Fidesz voters, but for 89% of Democratic Coalition voters.
The survey was initiated by the Editorial Independence Council in cooperation with the Czech National Committee of the International Press Institute and with the support of Bakala Foundation. It showed how political and generational divisions and the way people consume media significantly shape attitudes towards press freedom in individual countries.
The survey was carried out from 1 to 17 February 2022 by Median, combining online panel surveys and telephone interviews. The total size of the sample was 4,069 respondents (aged 18+). The survey was initiated by the Editorial Independence Council in cooperation with the Czech National Committee of the International Press Institute and with the support of Bakala Foundation.