New IREX study captures the impact of the pandemic on media and information in Europe and Eurasia

WASHINGTON, May XNUMX / PRNewswire / - The Vibrant information barometer (VIBE) from IREX from 2021 shows that several factors - the global financial downturn, government withholding of information, and misinformation related to the COVID-19 pandemic - are affecting the media and information sectors in 13 countries in Europe and Eurasia have influenced.

After almost 20 years of running the Media Sustainability Index With the support of USAID, IREX developed the Vibrant Information Barometer to record and measure how information is produced and used today. Through expert panels in the countries, VIBE tries to assess how lively the information systems of the countries are in the digital age and examines newer concepts such as media literacy and information bubbles as well as media resources and information quality in the media and information sector.

The 2021 edition of VIBE shows that the global economic downturn triggered by the pandemic in 2020 has further affected a media industry already struggling with reduced operating resources. While there is still no specific research on the impact of COVID-19 on Serbia, data presented in a USAID-supported forum in autumn 2020 showed that the advertising market shrank in spring 2020. In addition, as advertising has become increasingly politicized across the region, the media is more vulnerable to politically motivated patrons who influence editorial content, leading to increased self-censorship.

Panellists from across the region highlighted the measures their governments have taken to suppress public health information and COVID-19 data. The Georgian panel noted that the country's leading health authorities are excluding the media when they ask critical questions and that journalists' already restricted access to public information continues to deteriorate. The COVID-19 restrictions imposed by the Russian government gave the authorities leverage to limit public oversight of the 2020 constitutional vote and regional and local elections in September 2020.

Eventually, governments across the region withheld information while misinformation - including rumors and conspiracies about the pandemic - spread. Many were localized versions of unfounded international conspiracies related to the implantation of microchips or the role of 5G technology. The North Macedonian panel found that despite the lack of formal data, two fact-checking operations in the country indicated that about two-thirds of the items they debunked in 2020 were related to COVID-19.

VIBE is made possible by the support of the American people US Agency for International Development (USAID). VIBE contains country reports and that VIBE Explorer Dashboard to examine and compare data trends, regions and individual countries.

Shelton Roulhac, Director of Strategic Communications, IREX

sroulhac@irex.org