STRASBOURG - Grassroots media play a key role in upholding local democracy, and authorities at all levels can and should take steps to strengthen grassroots media, finds a new report on local and regional media, presented by co-rapporteurs, Cecilia Dalman Eek (Sweden, SOC/G/PD) and Mélanie Lepoultier (France, ILDG) at the 45th Session of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities on 25 October 2023.
The new report explores the growing trend towards media deserts in European towns and regions, its impact on democracy, and the role of local and regional authorities in combating such phenomena.
“If local democracies are the cornerstone of democratic societies, local and regional media constitute the foundation of a healthy and pluralistic media landscape,” stressed Mélanie Lepoultier.
In its adopted Resolution, the Congress encourages local and regional authorities to take concrete action to support local and regional media, for example through codes of conduct for local officials on how to engage with journalists and media organisations.
In a Recommendation, the Congress calls on governments of member States to develop media policies taking into account the information needs of local communities, with particular attention to rural and disadvantaged communities which are at increased risk of becoming local media deserts.
"Provided we build mutual respect and trust, local media are our natural allies in strengthening democracy, social cohesion and citizens engagement," underlined Cecilia Dalman Eek.
Furthermore, the Congress committed to supporting the Council of Europe’s campaign on the Safety of Journalists “Journalists matter” and asked member States to consider local and regional media in their campaign activities.
The Executive Lead of the BBC’s Local News Partnerships, Matthew Barraclough, backed up the discussion and emphasised that “local news is not only important in its own right, but also underpins the whole news eco-system and often becomes the national news of tomorrow”.
The Local Media for Democracy grant programme is currently supporting 17 local media outlets in the European Union and it is part of the Local Media for Democracy project which is an 18-month project co-funded by the European Union and the King Baudouin Foundation and launched by a consortium of partners: the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), the Centre for Media Pluralism and Media Freedom (CMPF), International Media Support (IMS), and Journalismfund Europe.
Source: Council of Europe
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