Sailing Through Troubled Waters: Journalism in Poland and Hungary

Updated: Dec 7, 2020

Speakers: Roman Imielski, Deputy Editor in ChiefGazeta Wyborcza, Poland and András Földes, Journalist and Video Journalist, Telex, Hungary

Moderator: Barbara Trionfi, Executive Director International Press Institute, IPI


December 1st, 2020, 16:55-17:25 CET


Written by Esther Eumann


Key words: Media freedom, Poland, Hungary, Independent News, Financing


Short annotation, summary: Both Hungary and Poland have seen worsening states of the freedom of press in the last years. The Hungarian journalist, András Földes (Telex), and the Polish editor and journalist, Roman Imielski (Gazeta Wyborcza), discuss their experiences and ways on how to continue to produce independent news.


The project or approach to be discussed in the session

A drop in the sale of advertisements, lawsuits in the case of Gazeta Wyborcza and concerns about becoming dependent on individual businessmen have left Imielski and Földes and with them many other independent media/ journalists with the struggle on how to finance independent journalism. Four ways were proposed in the session:

- Subscriptions and reader-based donations

- Pay wall

- EU funds (or funds from other international organisations)

- International cooperation (largely with other newspapers)


Evidence of impact

The digital strategy has been quite successful for Gazeta Wyborczka, which now has about 8 Million subscribers. Telex is also funded to a large extent on donations by readers, although not yet on a subscription basis. Gazeta Wyborczka’s cooperation with leading European newspapers allows it to print articles by other newspapers for free.


Limitations, risks of the approach provided by the speaker

Pay-walls and subscriptions have the risks of limiting access to independent media. Subscription-based media is a very new phenomenon in Poland and Hungary and it might take a while for readers to accept it. For Földes, index.hu was so important because it was the only place where everyone could get their news. Pay-walls and subscriptions will mean that the majority of the Hungarian audiences will consume the public media, which is in the hands of Fidesz and basically government propaganda. Independent media also has a task to fulfill for society, it has to act like a public broadcaster, but this is impossible if articles are locked behind pay-walls. While EU funds can help relieve financial stress, the negative image of the EU in both countries especially Hungary, will be seen as undermining independent media further and will be used by the government to further the narrative of independent media as “traitors” and “foreign spies”.


Takeaways

- Without money, there can be no independent journalism

- Survival of independent media is not guaranteed

- It is very difficult for international organisations to play a role in supporting the media, but at the same time very necessary


Other considerations

- If independent media is at risk, so is our democracy

- It’s not just about money, also political intimidation and pressure hinder the work of independent media, especially the refusal of the political elites to recognize these media platforms


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