Guest Blogs

William Horsley

Media freedom requires that the state must stay out of the ring  | William Horsley
Once, it seemed that things could only get better. But then somehow they got worse again. That is my shorthand summary of the path of media freedom in the past 15 years. Read full article
Guest Blogs

Alison Bethel McKenzie

A great threat to media freedom | Alison Bethel McKenzie
The International Press Institute (IPI), the world’s oldest global media freedom organization, is pleased to mark 15 years since the establishment of the Office ... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Dr. Agnes Callamard

The keys to improve the media freedom situation in the OSCE region and beyond the next 15 years | Dr. Agnes Callamard
The information technology revolution of the last two decades has profoundly transformed print and broadcast media, journalism, the production of news... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Christian Möller

“From Quill to Cursor”* and 140 Characters | Christian Möller
When I first joined the Office of the OSCE Media Freedom Representative in the summer of 2002, a colleague of mine – a senior U.S. diplomat – asked whether I knew “how to google” ... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Begaim Usenova

Kyrgyzstan’s Media Law | Begaim Usenova
In 2010, defamation was decriminalized in Kyrgyzstan. This step was perceived in the world as political will of the country’s leadership to ensure the citizens’ right for freedom of expression and opinion.. Read full article
Guest Blogs

Leonid Kozhara

A unique institution promoting media freedom | Leonid Kozhara
I would like to express my congratulations on the 15th anniversary of the establishment of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media ... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Timothy Karr

The Internet’s Growing Pains | Timothy Karr
At 15, the OSCE’s office for media freedom is now half the age of the modern Internet. In 1983, engineers of what was then known as the ARPANET switched over to a communications ... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Johan Hallenborg

Freedom of expression set to turbo mode | Johan Hallenborg
Swedes are a pretty tech savvy bunch. We like cool, new, shiny gadgets, too. And we start early: last year, half of all three-year-olds in Sweden were on the net... Read full article
Guest Blogs

Galina Arapova

Freedom of expression: development, trial, protection | Galina Arapova
In recent years we have seen a rapid change in media environment, we were lucky to witness an unprecedented technological and informational progress.. Read full article
Guest Blogs

Marietje Schaake

Saving the open Internet requires protecting the rights of its users | Marietje Schaake
Technological developments and the open Internet have led to revolutionary changes and the potential of emancipating individuals, bottom up... Read full article

15 Years of the Representative on Freedom of the Media

Free expression and free media are basic human rights. The Office of the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media was established in December 1997 to protect them.

Dunja Mijatovic

The OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media observes media developments in all 57 OSCE participating States. She provides early warning on violations of freedom of expression and promotes full compliance with OSCE press freedom commitments.

Media freedom requires that the state must stay out of the ring

By William Horsley, Media Freedom Representative of the Association of European Journalists and former BBC correspondent

Once, it seemed that things could only get better. But then somehow they got worse again. That is my shorthand summary of the path of media freedom in the past 15 years.

In 1989 a lone Chinese man blocked the path of a column of tanks near Tien An Men square. It was a telling gesture, coming after the mass sit-in protests had been violently crushed. A new generation showed it wanted an end to the lies of an all-powerful one-party state. Half a world away a hopeful generation in Europe, too, risked everything to end a world of lies orchestrated by communist party propaganda machines. From Warsaw to Leipzig and eventually Moscow the dominoes fell. They were the first televised revolutions against censorship and oppression.

It has taken another generation to excavate the truth about that modern dark age in Europe, and the truth is still half-hidden. Yet in the 1990s media freedom did enjoy a sort of golden age. A forest of new media titles and TV channels sprang up. Foreign investment poured in and a hundred flowers bloomed, creating diversity of opinion and often the makings of a real citizens’ democracy.

Among the first signs of a reverse was the re-capture of the main Russian TV channels into the hands of the Kremlin and its allies. It was a prelude to a new ‘vertical’ of state power which had little time for dissent or for individual rights if they stood in the way of the mighty state. In Ukraine and Georgia the Orange and Rose revolutions were a late flowering of popular demands for free elections and an end to systemic corruption protected by a skein of lies. Before long, though, both those movements were tarnished or went into reverse.

Enter then the age of the oligarchs as media moguls, and the fusion of political and media power. The age of kompromat and paid-for articles and widespread self-censorship. And the start of a new climate of intimidation, physical violence and judicial harassment, directed at inquiring or critical journalists in many parts of the former Soviet Union, south-eastern Europe and elsewhere. The agents were both state officials and organised crime gangs.

Today the collapse in the market value of journalism in the Internet age is weakening ‘legacy media’. But the most deadly threats to media freedom all over Europe are still governments’ misuse of anti-terrorism laws to protect those in power; failures to ensure the independence of media regulators; casual police violence, politicised justice systems and blanket surveillance of communications which deters investigative journalism.

The future of media freedom depends partly on the journalists and media themselves, who must re-learn the value of their work and up their game. But above all the governments of OSCE participating states must show the courage to stand up again for free expression and their own citizens’ right to know. They must unlearn the political expediency which has been allowed to become the norm in Europe. And recover the spirit of 1989.