The Illiberal Turn project launches recommendations for journalists and policy makers

Building on original empirical evidence collected across the period of two years in four Central and Eastern European countries, The Illiberal Turn project is launching a report with practical recommendations for the development of media policies and journalistic practices with a potential to alleviate the negative consequences of polarization and populism currently observed both within and beyond the region.

Developed in collaboration with key stakeholders representing news organizations, regulators, media policy makers and media advocacy groups, this report is intended to inform their practices as well as to improve their understanding of the needs, experiences and opinions of news media audiences in a rapidly changing communication environment.  The report, titled “Rebuilding trust and countering polarization in (post)pandemic times”, contains selected empirical outputs from the project, in the form of survey data and qualitative interviews, which underpin suggestions how best to enhance media pluralism, advance digital literacy and restore trust in journalism, in times when many countries of the region have been going through an unprecedented decline in media freedom and quality of democracy in recent years. Special attention is paid to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has further underscored the need to nurture and cultivate politically independent and economically sustainable media as sources of trustworthy and accurate information.

Dr Václav Štětka, Principal Investigator of The Illiberal Turn project, said:

“The rise of illiberal populism and political polarization pose true challenges for democracies across the world, and particularly for those without long-established traditions of democratic governance. We hope that these evidence-based recommendations will contribute to the shaping of policies and practices aspiring to build a more resilient public sphere, to improve the quality of news provision as well as consumption, and thereby to strengthen democracy across the region – and beyond.”

Professor Sabina Mihelj, Co-Investigator of The Illiberal Turn project, added:

“These recommendations are not intended to put additional pressure on a profession which is, by and large, overstretched, economically vulnerable, and facing increasing political attacks in the CEE region. They are simply meant as ideas stemming from our research that might hopefully be inspiring for media practitioners and organisations who share the ambition to be part of the solution with regards to some of the troubling tendencies currently observed in CEE media and society.”


Funded by the Economic and Social Research Council (UK), The Illiberal Turn project is designed as the first-ever systematic, comparative study of news consumption and political polarization in Central and Eastern Europe. Covering four countries of the region (the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Serbia), the project utilizes population and expert surveys, qualitative interviews and media diaries to examine the relationship between news media use and citizens’ political attitudes and behaviour, against the background of rising illiberalism, spreading of disinformation and increasing pressures on free media. For more information see