A free and impartial media is the fourth pillar of democracy, alongside the legislature, the executive, and the judiciary. The right of journalists to question, criticise, and hold power to account should be a fundamental right.
Unfortunately, this is no longer the case.
Transparency International’s Freedom in the World 2019 report reveals a global decline in freedom even in the most long-standing democracies.
When governments seek to increase their grip on previously independent institutions, control over the media and a crackdown on criticism are fundamental elements of their strategy. Silencing those who question, discrediting those who criticise, and threatening or murdering those who reveal the truth is increasingly common.
What is the impact of populism, authoritarianism, corruption, organised crime, impunity, and a lack of judicial independence on the rule of law?
Does the crumbling of the three other pillars of democracy impact the fourth?
Can independent media survive in a landscape where the rule of law is under threat?
We compare the situation in five European Union states — Poland, Italy, Malta, Bulgaria, and Hungary — as well as potential EU-candidate Albania, drawing on news sources, human rights organisations and press freedom groups to demonstrate how a deterioration in a country’s judicial system means that freedom of expression suffers, too.