Independent, public interest journalism in Europe finds itself increasingly under pressure with journalists being silenced, refused access to political debates, and the plurality of media being at risk. At the same time, independent media organisations are financially strained as the Internet has changed how people consume news. As a result, fewer and fewer people are willing to pay for news and advertisers are redirecting money to online platforms where unverified information is provided for free.
The pandemic has introduced trends such as a growing digital divide, limited media freedom and growing disinformation around Covid-19. Limitations thought unthinkable just a year ago such as lockdowns, banning assemblies and gatherings, and tech surveillance are now common and come with human rights implications.
In a two-day online convening, the Civitates’ grantee partners working for a strong and resilient civil society shared hopes and worries about the impact of the pandemic (and the social and economic crisis that followed) on the civic space and on their work. There was a real sense of optimism throughout the discussions, as civil society across Europe is showing tremendous value right now. Many civic actors have repurposed themselves pretty much overnight, adding relief dimensions to their work and shifting many of their activities online. Impressive numbers of people have been mobilised for solidarity initiatives, as the crisis has highlighted the need for caring and inclusion.
The pandemic is shaping up to be a defining moment for tech platforms and regulators. Only time will tell if we are really seeing an end to the “techlash” and what the impact on civil society will be. Still, our grantees believe that the pandemic could be a momentum to promote new positive policies for the digital and offline world.
It was in Warsaw, on the 4th and 5th of December, that Civitates’ grantees who have received funds for their work on advancing a ‘strong and resilient society’ came together for the second time. The meeting mainly focused on strenghtening relations across the coalitions, which operate in many different countries. Apart from sharing updates, peer to peer advice and the exploration of possible collaboration, participants also attended an inspiring workshop on hope-based communication and learned more about how to use advocacy to strengthen the space for civil society in Europe.
On Wednesday the 18th of September, Civitates gathered in Brussels, all grantees that have received funds for their work on ‘improving the digital information ecosystem in Europe’. Representatives of some of the philanthropic foundations that are part of Civitates took part in the convening as well. It was the first time for the grantees to meet as a group and while learning more about each other’s work, possible ways of collaboration were explored as well.