In many countries, both media and civil society organisations (CSOs) face the same challenges such as restricted access to information, smear campaigns, legal and practical limitations for accessing funding, as well as limited space for the exchanges of best practices – all a result of the shrinking civil space. Collaboration between journalistic organisations and CSOs can counter those trends, advance their work, have a powerful societal impact, and strengthen democracy.
Grantees in the spotlight
Without the engagement of people from different social groups and demographics in public matters, one cannot build a democracy, nor counter polarisation. Still, civic engagement has been reserved predominantly for European capital regions where the effects of certain policies on people’s lives are immediately perceived.
Therefore, several of Civitates’ grantee partners have made it a priority to expand civic engagement beyond the capital cities.
The European Partnership for Democracy, a Civitates grantee partner and an organisation with a global remit to support democracy recently published an article explaining the importance of the Digital Services Act for Democracy in Europe and potentially beyond.
A governmental attempt to restrict women’s rights in 2020, a proposed tax reform in 2021 that can shrink the space for independent media, and governmental efforts to curtail the judiciary’s independence marked an eventful period for civil society organisations in Poland. Amidst all developments, Polish civil society has learnt that united actions have more impact than individual attempts to counter the worrying trends.
For Civitates’ partners from PressOne, an independent journalist organisation based in Romania, public-interest journalism is “a powerful way to make people understand the reality that surrounds them and a powerful tool of change” as Adrian Mihaltianu, PressOne’s managing director, shared.
BIRN, together with SHARE foundation, has been monitoring how digital rights violations in Central and South-Eastern Europe are impacting democracy and human rights even before the pandemic changed people’s lives. With the pandemic, however, they saw a tremendous growth of rights violations linked to Covid-19.
By working together, members of the coalition led by VoxPublic unite strengths and expertise to promote and defend the rights of civil society actors and to provide response strategies to the growing repression experienced by associations.
Under Hungary’s present government, many independent or critical voices in the media have been silenced. Yet journalists have built new business models to go on holding the powerful to account. The founders of investigative news site Direkt36 see leaders elsewhere emulating Hungary’s Prime Minister Viktor Orban and want to share what they’ve learned.
Democracy Reporting International (DRI) recently launched a user-friendly concept for a web-based toolkit to monitor social media during elections. As the phenomenon of social media influencing the political arena is something known only for about 5 years, little knowledge existed about the impact on democracy.