The ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the increasing politicization of the media have affected the media and information sector in 18 countries in Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia, according to IREX’s Vibrant Information Barometer 2022 for Europe and Eurasia (VIBE).
Using panels of experts in countries, VIBE assesses how dynamic countries’ information systems are in the digital age and explicitly examines newer concepts such as media literacy and information bubbles, as well as the quality of information in the media and information sector.
The 2022 edition of VIBE, which examines the media landscape in calendar year 2021, shows that countries in all three regions continue to be affected by actions taken by their respective governments to withhold public health information and data about the pandemic and vaccination campaigns. In more repressive countries such as Turkmenistan, the government insisted that there was not a single case of COVID-19 in the country, and state media refused to even use the words “coronavirus” or “COVID” in reports. In less extreme cases, such as Kazakhstan, the ongoing pandemic has highlighted government agencies’ lack of crisis communications skills and difficulties in disseminating high-quality public information-and the public’s tendency to trust social media and messaging apps more than the media.
The experts also discussed the increasing politicization and polarization of their countries’ media and information spaces. In all three regions, media content continues to be largely determined by the political interests and influences of its owners, leading to a decline in trust in the media and a further decrease in constructive debate and discussion on important issues. The study in Montenegro found that people’s media preferences are based on political leanings and that the media can easily be classified as pro-government or opposition depending on their editorial content. In Armenia, the result was similar, showing that agencies in that country work primarily in the service of their political and corporate affiliations, representing those narrow interests and sacrificing ethical standards to do so. In northern Macedonia, experts also found that political affiliations are evident as soon as an article is published.
VIBE is made possible by the support of the American people through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). Visit our website for country reports and the VIBE Explorer to explore and compare data trends, VIBE principles, regions, and individual countries.
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