In a world dominated by government-controlled state and public media outlets, the looming specter of a series of intensifying conflicts presents an alarming peril to democratic societies just before a crucial election year, when people will elect their leaders in some 50 nations worldwide.

In the past year, the government’s grip on state media has remained overwhelmingly strong, albeit with a slight decrease. Some 83% of the 592 state-administered media entities across 157 countries lack editorial independence, according to this study released by Media and Journalism Research Center today. While this figure is down by one percentage point from the previous year, it still represents an increase from the 80% recorded in 2021.

The situation of state and public media worldwide continues to be a cause for concern, with only 99 outlets currently being editorially independent. Out of those, a mere 19 can be classified as independent public service media, which is considered the golden standard for media independence in all aspects. But even those outlets are not immune to pressures. Several independent media outlets are facing relentless attacks, particularly from right-wing politicians and parties who oppose the autonomy of public service media.

With the ongoing war in Ukraine and intensifying tensions in the Middle East, the battle for public opinion is poised to escalate, granting governments even greater control over the media.

Authoritarian superpowers China and Russia continue to make significant strides in expanding their media influence beyond their own borders. With their media systems under close control domestically, both countries are investing heavily in a network of state-controlled outlets aimed at international audiences, as well as media companies targeting national audiences in strategically important countries. This concerted effort is aimed at bolstering their own narratives and increasing their global influence.

Furthermore, the year 2024 is set to witness elections in almost 50 nations worldwide, encompassing a combined population of over 3.3 billion individuals. This impending wave of elections will undoubtedly exert even greater pressure on the media, especially state and public media outlets.

See the full study here.

To cite the report:

Marius Dragomir, & Astrid Söderström. (2023). From Puppet to Powerhouse: A Global Study of the Independence of State and Public Media. Media and Journalism Research Center: Tallinn/London