MSI expert panels, from the Balkans throughout Eurasia and Central Asia, consistently noted amplified violence against journalists. In Ukraine there were 29 reported physical attacks—the same number as in 2016—and 15 incidents of cyberattack, damage to property, political pressure, and lawsuits against media. Croatian panelists cited a doubling of physical attacks on journalists in 2017 as compared to 2016; Bosnian experts discussed death threats against journalists; and Bulgarian MSI contributors remarked that verbal attacks on journalists by members of the government or other high-ranking officials are on the rise.
The MSI scores the state of the media through five components including the legal environment for free speech, quality of journalism, plurality of news sources, media management practices, and effectiveness of supporting institutions. Media experts from each country discuss and score the state of independent media based on these indicators.
This year, IREX has launched a dynamic data platform, the Media Sustainability Explorer, that enables users to analyze and examine data from all 17 years of the Europe and Eurasia MSI and to compare data trends across time, MSI objectives, regions and individual countries.
Media throughout the region struggle to operate during economic recessions and in markets where advertising revenue is shifting from traditional to online media, increasing vulnerability to political interests and financial practices that weaken independence, ethics and professionalism. Panelists noted that journalists are increasingly using social media—without fact checking content—to flesh out stories and get access to sources, which can result in the spread of fake news and other violations of professional and ethical standards. In Kazakhstan, panelists remarked that the use of new technologies and media is resulting in journalism taking on the format of blogger broadcasting, with journalism standards descending to the point that many journalists simply repost press releases issued by official bodies.
The U.S. Agency for International Development funds the Europe & Eurasia MSI in 21 countries. The MSI is a trusted evaluation of global media health, providing donors, media advocates, local professionals, and scholars 17 years of data. See www.irex.org/msi for each country report.