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Soft Censorship, Hard Impact: Report warns of increasing threat to independent media


A new global report on "soft censorship" warns of increasing threats to independent media posed by official use of financial leverage and regulatory powers to influence reporting and the very viability of media outlets. "Soft Censorship, Hard Impact", produced by the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the Center for International Media Assistance (CIMA), details the advance of soft censorship, and urgently calls on governments to fully respect principles of transparent and non-discriminatory state advertising, aid and funding for all media outlets.

WAN-IFRA and CIMA are today calling for rapid action to address the growing danger that "soft censorship" poses to press freedom and media independence in scores of countries around the world.

"Soft censorship is less noticed than direct attacks on press freedom like assaults on journalists, but is even more widespread," said Larry Kilman, Secretary General of WAN-IFRA. "Soft censorship is pervasive, but not yet recognised for its grave and growing threat to media independence and press freedom."

Soft censorship is a widely practiced but indirect form of censorship in which governments use biased media subsidies and advertising placements to exert pressure to influence media content and media outlets' viability.

WAN-IFRA, CIMA and like-minded groups are committed to raising awareness of the mechanisms of soft censorship, and to advocating measures that can reduce it.

"Soft censorship can all-too-quietly strangle free media," warned Mark Nelson, Senior Director of CIMA. "A public that is denied accurate and impartial information is unlikely to be aware of its existence and its pernicious impact on the democratic process."

This report's recommendations suggest a path forward that proponents of free and independent media can embrace, beginning with greater transparency and impartiality in all government payments and funding for media, be it for advertising, training, content, or straightforward subsidies.

Based on extensive research from several media freedom groups and reporting by numerous media outlets, Soft Censorship, Hard Impact offers examples of soft censorship in thirty countries. It also summarizes in-depth soft censorship reports on four countries - Hungary, Malaysia, Mexico, and Serbia - from WAN-IFRA's continuing series investigating soft censorship in countries worldwide.

The report was written by Thomas R. Lansner, and produced with support from Open Society Foundations and Open Society Justice Initiative.

"Soft Censorship, Hard Impact" was released during the World Newspaper Congress, World Editors Forum and World Advertising Forum in Torino, Italy, this week, which is attended by 1,000 chief editors, publishers, CEOs, managing directors and other senior newspaper and news publishing executives. Live updates are available on the conference blog or via Twitter: live [email protected] , curated updates @NewspaperWorld and via the hashtags #wnc14 and #Editors14

Download the full report.
international_soft_censorship_wanifra.pdf (747 KB)

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