Media freedom made in Scandinavia – examples of best practice

NEWS | 18 May 2020

The European Centre for Press and Media Freedom (ECPMF) seeks to inspire positive changes with their first Fact Finding Mission (FFM) to investigate policies and approaches to press freedom in Denmark and Sweden, two countries consistently among the top in media freedom rankings.

As Scandinavia always tops the list of rankings for media freedom, as illustrated in the most recent Reporters without Borders World Press Freedom Index, the ECPMF chose to focus on the best practices of Sweden and Denmark. 

According to the findings, these six may prove useful for the rest of Europe in the post-corona society.

Commercial foundations (in contrast to the more common philanthropic) who own media have different goals and influence media freedom positively. The FFM recommends expanding this practice in the EU with legislation.

Direct platform-neutral subsidies focused on innovation protect professional journalism, sustainable jobs and media pluralism inclusive of all types of media and means of distribution. The Nordics are in the minority (approximately one-third) of EU countries that provide direct support to media.

Robust trade union organisation characterises Denmark, where positive aspects highlighted by the FFM were non-mandatory membership, a membership representative of the public sphere, equal rights for freelancers, avoiding partisanship and a pragmatic stance towards members. Sweden is making adjustments to their journalist-only union to meet the increasing needs of digital and non-traditional media workers.

High trust in public service media makes Sweden stand out. With even Denmark somewhat vulnerable, facing job and expenditure cuts and station closures, the FFM recognises a united front among Swedish publishers, press and public service media workers advocating for media freedom, though they acknowledge this may not be reproducible.

Regulatory bodies in both Denmark and Sweden feature independent, transparent and professional frameworks that support trustworthy and accountable reporting, with a Code of Ethics applying to all media with journalistic content, including online platforms.

Constitutional guarantees of press freedom date back more than 250 years in Sweden to the Freedom of the Press Act of 1766. The FFM recommends EU countries follow this example and protect public interest journalism from intimidation or threats of criminal prosecution with national constitutional provisions that conform to the rights guaranteed in Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

The FFM was also supported by the Human Rights Centre at Ghent University, the European Federation of Journalists, Osservatorio balcani e caucaso transeuropa and Centro Per La Cooperazione Internazionale.

Read the report:

Media freedom made in Scandinavia – examples of best practice