Media Freedom Assessment and Evaluation

There are many organizations throughout the world that measure, evaluate, and promote media freedom. The four most prominent are:

Freedom House, based in Washington, DC, has been promoting democracy and human rights for over 60 years. Since 1978, it has published Freedom in the World, a global survey of 192 countries and 18 territories. In 1980 it began to survey press freedom separately. Surveys from 2002 to 2006 called Freedom of the Press are available at the website.

International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX), also based in Washington, DC. Its website has an Independent Media section. There you’ll find its famous Media Sustainability Index which it launched in 2001 to compare independent media on a global basis. Available for download at this time are two 2005 surveys for Europe and Eurasia, and the Middle East and North Africa.

Reporters san Frontieres (RSF) is the Paris based group that actively investigates and reports censorship throughout the world. Over 100 researchers, who each handle a region (Africa, the Americas, Asia/Pacific, Europe and the former Soviet bloc, Middle East/ North Africa) or a topic such as the Internet, compile reports of press freedom violations. After checking the information, the researchers and the organisations’ correspondents send protest letters to the authorities to put pressure on offending governments and send releases to the media to drum up support for the journalists under attack. RSF just published its 2007 Annual Press Freedom Survey (which go back to 2004 on the site). Other reports include Predators of Press Freedom, The War in Iraq, and Press Freedom Index. These folks love journalists. They run memorials to fallen journalists on the site and just recently with the French insurance company Bellini Prévoyance, in partnership with the ACE insurance group, began offering cut-price insurance coverage to freelance journalists and photographers on assignment anywhere in the world.

Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), out of New York, started their operations in 1981. Their goal is to protect journalists against threat and attack by lobbying domestic and foreign governments on their behalf . They track chilling realities such as: journalist killed 1992-2006 (statistics, case files, database), journalists in prison, journalists missing from 1982 to present. They also publish an annual Attacks on the Press; their archive goes back to 1996.

Inspiration for this post is the article in The International Communication Gazette (Volume 69, Number 1, 2007) by Lee B. Becker, Tudor Vlad, and Nancy Nusser titled: An Evaluation of Press Freedom Indicators.

Abstract:
Despite uncertainties about the popular measures f media freedom, no systematic analyses have been undertaken of their development, of the assumptions that lie behind their different methodologies, of the reliability of the resultant measures, or of the consistency of conclusions across the different measures. This article examines four measures, by Freedom House, Reporters sans frontières, IREX and the Committee to Protect Journalists, and finds considerable consistency in the measurement. In addition, the Freedom House measure, which has been in existence for more than 20 years, varies in meaningful ways across time. The article examines the conceptual implications of these findings and offers suggestions for their use by researches in the future.

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