The coronavirus pandemic that erupted at the beginning of 2020 has entailed significant political, economic and social consequences on a global scale. In Southeast Europe, COVID-19 has represented one more crisis in addition to the long-standing problems that have plagued the region, particularly in the media sphere.
The report examines the impact of the coronavirus crisis on press independence in Bulgaria, Romania, Serbia and Albania. It assesses three main dimensions contributing to the shrinking space for media freedom in the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic and state of emergency: domestic politics and societal developments; foreign authoritarian media interference, technology and social media. A key conclusion is that the COVID-19 pandemic has reinforced the pre-existing internal and external factors underwriting the deteriorating condition of the media across the region. At the same time, the pandemic has re-awakened democratic instincts, providing opportunities for the invigoration of freedom of expression.