Although journalists do not work in a hostile environment, widespread misinformation and lack of professionalism contribute to society's declining trust in the media, which exposes independent outlets to threats and attacks.
Although television is the dominant source of information, online media play an important role. Yet, a distinction must be made between professional online newsrooms that employ professional journalists and publish original content, and individual portals that plagiarise and copy-paste such content. There is also a big gap between usage and trust: the most watched TV stations have a low reliability index.
The overall environment remains favourable to press freedom and allows for critical reporting, although transparency of institutions is rather poor. Due to strong political polarisation, the media can be subjected to pressure by the authorities, politicians and businessmen. The two largest parties (in power and in opposition) have created parallel media systems over which they exert their political and economic influence. The public broadcaster lacks editorial and financial independence.
While the constitution guarantees freedom of speech and bans censorship, the country is lagging behind in terms of harmonising media legislation with the standards of the European Union, which it intends to join. Judicial abuse of the Law on Civil Responsibility for Defamation incites self-censorship in the media. Lawsuits are used as a tool for intimidation and pressure on independent media. The ethical framework is composed of the Code of Conduct and a media self-regulator that both encourage good journalistic practices, although the implementation is poor.
Although certain types of media concentration are prohibited by law, the editorial staff of some of the major TV channels are exposed to economic pressures from their owners. State funding is limited and non-transparent, and independent media rely heavily on donors. Project-based foreign grants contribute to mere survival, but not to further development. There is influence peddling between marketing agencies and certain media outlets.
Although there are no clear constraints in the social and cultural environment that affect free journalism, social networks and the digital sphere generally favour the spread of disinformation and cyberthreats. Combined with low professional standards, they contribute to the decline of public trust in the media and pave the way for attacks on journalists based on gender, ethnic or religious criteria.
While 2021 has been relatively calm, journalists are regularly the targets of verbal attacks. Under the pretext of protecting state secrets and personal data, they may be exposed to legal pressure and abusive prosecution (gag proceedings or SLAPPs). However, the courts tend to uphold freedom of the press and protect journalists. Amendments for better protection of journalists are being prepared.