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Why End the Global Media Crisis?

Despite its scope and complexity, the crisis in the news media is far from intractable. Addressing it will require the world's wealthy democracies to use foreign and security policy and international development assistance to encourage the growth of professional, independent media.

WASHINGTON, DC – Almost everywhere one looks nowadays, the news media are in crisis. And unfortunately, although a robust free press is fundamental to a well-functioning democracy, the world’s democratic governments are doing too little to protect it.

Media outlets worldwide are struggling to adapt their business models to the digital age, with local newspapers, in particular, collapsing en masse, owing partly to the loss of advertising revenues. Without trusted local publications, readers become more susceptible to false narratives and sensationalist clickbait. As high-quality journalism is marginalized, political leaders around the world are able to dismiss unflattering coverage as “fake news,” and the lack of a shared set of facts erodes trust in democracy and the rule of law.

Moreover, from Syria to Slovakia, journalists are being harassed, held hostage, unlawfully detained, and even killed for doing their jobs. Following a model perfected in Hungary, Russia, and Turkey, the dominant model of media ownership is now “media capture,” whereby political leaders and their wealthy cronies use news media to advance their authoritarian designs and business interests. Without trusted media holding government and business to account, corruption flourishes. (The hope that citizen watchdogs using Facebook and Twitter would pick up the slack has been categorically dashed.)

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