Post-Totalitarian countries’ press freedom and development aided the European Union’s global rise

, by Asfandiyar

Post-Totalitarian countries' press freedom and development aided the European Union's global rise
Image in public domain

The rise of the European Union (EU) on the global level has been attributed to a number of factors, including the freedom of press and development in post-totalitarian countries.

The newly independent post-totalitarian nations started making the transition to democracy and market economies when the authoritarian communist regimes in Eastern Europe and Eurasia fell during the late 1980s and early 1990s. In order to break the government’s stranglehold on information and advance transparency, power-scrutiny, and educated public discourse, free and independent media had to be established as a crucial component of these transitions. Press freedom was one of the biggest developments that took place in these nations.

Before 1989, the government in Central Europe had strict control over the media. Newspapers, periodicals, and television networks were all employed as communist propaganda mediums. A population that was mainly misinformed and uncaring about political and social concerns was the outcome. For many nations in Central and Eastern Europe, the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991 ushered in a new era of freedom and democracy. These nations were eager to embrace the values of free speech and press freedom after decades of totalitarian tyranny. As a result of television stations being permitted to broadcast unfiltered news and information, independent newspapers and periodicals started to appear. This resulted in a rise in political interest and better-informed citizens.

Nonetheless, developing free, independent media has been extremely difficult in post-totalitarian nations. There aren’t enough qualified journalists and editors today because of prior governmental control and censorship. The distinction between responsible journalism and yellow journalism was difficult for audiences and media outlets due to a lack of experience with free discourse and criticism. Governments were motivated to limit scathing news that showed their own ineptitude and corruption. Additionally, media companies struggled to become financially sustainable in the face of undeveloped subscription and advertising markets. A free press, according to proponents of press freedom, will aid in the political and economic growth of these developing democracies. Numerous development indices, including faster GDP growth, lower levels of corruption, and stronger democratic institutions, have been linked in studies to media freedom. Researchers disagree on whether a free press encourages development or whether development makes media freedom possible. Most likely, both positively affect each other in a vicious loop.

Most post-totalitariannations have loosened their media rules during the past few decades, and private channels have multiplied. However, there are significant differences in the region’s degrees of journalistic freedom. The Czech Republic, Estonia, and Poland, among other post-communist nations, have tended to create the most liberal media environments. These nations have also had the strongest economic and democratic progress. Russia, Belarus, and Ukraine, which continue to struggle with authoritarian inclinations, corruption, and economic challenges, score worse on measures of media freedom. The capacity to hold governments responsible was one of the most immediate advantages of press freedom. In the past, the government exerted strict control over the media, and reporters were frequently retaliated against for covering touchy subjects. However, with the rise of free speech, journalists were now empowered to look into corruption, reveal government wrongdoing, and hold the strong accountable.

The evolution of these nations was significantly impacted by this newly discovered press freedom. For instance, the media was crucial in revealing fraud and poor management during the privatization process in the Czech Republic. This contributed to making sure that the privatization process was carried out in a fair and transparent manner, which eventually boosted the economy of the nation.

Approaching the Russian border Poland also underwent significant upheaval. Polish media significantly contributed to the promotion of democratic changes. For instance, independent media contributed to increasing public awareness of the need for free elections and a free press. This lay the groundwork for a smooth transition to democracy in 1989. The advantages of press freedom extended beyond advancements in politics and the economy. In Budapest, however, the media also contributed to the advancement of social transformation. New legislation to protect victims was passed as a result of greater public awareness of the problem of domestic abuse in the nation. The statements made by Thomas Carothers, Senior Vice President for Global Programs at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, are amply supported by this. He asserts that "the media can play a crucial role in development by disseminating knowledge, creating awareness, and holding governments responsible. The media may play a particularly significant role in fostering the development of a democratic society in nations that have recently undergone a totalitarian transition. In Poland, while the official media, particularly TVP, have evolved into tools of government propaganda, the private sector has remained mostly pluralistic and has powerful independent media, like TVN, the daily Gazeta Wyborcza, and the online publication Local private media confront fierce competition from these regional publications and “local government newspapers” that have been funded by the public for many years. As per the 2023 report of Reporters Without Borders, Poland scored 67.66 points compared to last year’s 65 points and is in 57th place globally. Hungary, on the other hand, under Prime Minister Viktor Orban, has built its own media empire. All the media outlets follow his party’s orders. Though Independent media still have a significant market share, they are also susceptible to regulatory, economic, and political constraints. Journalists are rarely targets of physical violence or illegal police questioning. The only member of the European Union accused of employing Pegasus software to unilaterally monitor journalists is the Hungarian state. Owing to these instances, the RSF has placed Hungary 72nd in its 2023 freedom index.Press freedom and the growth of post-totalitarian nations have both been cited as contributing reasons to the rise of the European Union (EU) on a worldwide scale. The rule of law is one of the foundational tenets of the EU. Included in this is press freedom, which is crucial for keeping governments responsible and guaranteeing that people have access to truthful information. The media has been crucial in supporting democracy and sound administration in post-totalitarian nations. Most likely, the European Union also contributes to the growth of its member nations. The European Union’s standing has improved as a result of growth and press freedom. The EU is increasingly regarded as a role model for other nations emerging from authoritarian tyranny. The European Union is a desirable partner for nations throughout the world because of its dedication to democracy, the rule of law, and human rights.

The remarks of Freedom House can be used to demonstrate the significance of free press in Europe. "The media is an effective weapon for advancing democracy and responsible leadership in the EU. The media may contribute to a more equitable and prosperous society in the EU by holding governments responsible and bringing significant topics to public attention.

Following the conclusion of the Cold War, post-totalitarian nations developed and “Westernized,” which paved the way for their future participation in the EU. The growth of the EU as a political and economic force with growing obligations and interests across the world was accelerated by this expansion. In conclusion, the experience of post-totalitarian nations supports the notion that a free press is a crucial component of political and economic growth. The pursuit of journalistic freedom is a process that never ends. The emerging democracies and developing countries must imitate Europe’s democratic practices, press freedom, and freedom of expression.

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