Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the Press 2005

Press freedom saw modest gains in a number of key countries, including Ukraine and Lebanon, which received status upgrades in 2004. Several countries in the Middle East and North Africa region also showed positive trends. However, these improvements were outweighed by a worsening in the overall level of press freedom worldwide as measured by the global average score, continuing a three-year trend of decline. Notable setbacks occurred in the United States and elsewhere in the Americas, while increased restrictions were also detected in parts of Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and the former Soviet Union.

In 2004, out of 194 countries and territories surveyed, 75 countries (39 percent) were rated Free, 50 (26 percent) were rated Partly Free, and 69 (35 percent) were rated Not Free. The year saw a slight improvement in press freedom worldwide as measured by a shift in category. Overall, 1 country, Namibia, moved from Partly Free to Free, while 4 countries (Guatemala, Guinea-Bissau, Lebanon, and Ukraine) improved from Not Free to Partly Free. Only 2 countries—Kenya and Pakistan—registered a negative category shift in 2004 from Partly Free to Not Free.

In terms of population, the survey found that 17 percent of the world’s inhabitants live in countries that enjoy a Free press, while 38 percent have a Partly Free press and 45 percent have a Not Free press. The relatively negative picture painted by examining population figures can be explained by the fact that China, with its large population, is rated Not Free, and the almost equally populous country of India is rated Partly Free, thus vastly decreasing the percentage of people worldwide who have access to Free media. This situation represents a decline over the past year, as the percentage of people who live in countries with a Not Free media environment has increased by two points.

The overall level of press freedom worldwide, as measured by the global average score, also worsened in 2004 to 45.94, continuing a three-year downward trend. Both the overall global average score and the averages for the political and economic categories worsened, with the political environment category showing a particular decline.

The five worst-rated countries in 2004 continue to be Burma, Cuba, Libya, North Korea, and Turkmenistan. In these states, independent media are either nonexistent or barely able to operate, the role of the press is to act as a mouthpiece for the ruling regime, and citizens’ access to unbiased information is severely limited. The numerical scores for these five countries have barely changed in relation to the previous year, reflecting a level of extreme repression and stagnation for the media.

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Freedom of the Press 2005 Release Materials:

Note: Reports with asterisks in the following list are for territories rather than countries.

Americas

Asia-Pacific

Eurasia

Europe

Middle East and North Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa