In a new report for the Center for International Media Assistance, Marius Dragomir and a group of MJRC experts analyze the impactful ways that the private sector in CEE is engaging in efforts to counter disinformation and bolster independent journalism. The research consisted of two phases: one global mapping of good practices of engagement between private businesses and independent journalism, followed by an in-depth country-focused research that analyzed three countries in Eastern Europe: Czechia, Romania and Serbia.

The report highlights that the media sectors in these three countries have much to share, including a similar trajectory of reform following the fall of communism in the region and also the challenges media capture has wrought on media independence and freedom in the area over the past decade. Another common trait revealed by the research is that the private sector has not been a prominent actor in protecting information integrity and supporting independent media in CEE. This situation must change in order to build a healthy media ecosystem that is an indispensable condition for ethical businesses to thrive, concludes the report. Furthermore, to navigate the local political and economic context, businesses need access to independently produced news and information. Finally, in media markets where information is weaponized and mis- and dis- information are rampant, businesses find it extremely difficult to protect their brands, names, and reputations. The report shows that the more captured a media environment becomes, the less receptive private businesses are to engage with independent news outlets.

As such, to counteract many of the challenges mentioned before, the research maps initiatives with a view to identifying avenues for private sector investment in countering disinformation and supporting independent journalism, the incentives driving such engagement, and the barriers limiting it. The report examines three tiers of support, ranging from tokenism (sponsorship of workshops, prizes, covering journalism production costs like printing, travel, and software fees) to investments in quality journalism (investments in media outlets or journalistic production projects) to suitable long term financial support through media endowments. 

Drawing on these initiatives, the report concludes that on the long term, the endowment model is the most resilient and effective form of support because it insulates private companies from government attacks and provides more systematicand enduring support for the independent media sector. Furthermore, experimenting with new forms of funding and fundraising presents an important opportunity for independent journalism to grow, particularly in Central and Eastern Europe. 

The report, “Investing in Facts: How the Business Community Can Support a Healthy Infosphere” was the fruit of a project financed by CIPE. The research was carried out between November 2021 and June 2022 by a team of eight researchers under the leadership of Marius Dragomir, director of the Media and Journalism Research Center. The project was based on data and information collected through secondary research and 57 interviews.

The full report can be accessed here.