Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the Press 2007

Press Freedom in 2006: Growing Threats to Media Independence

The state of global press freedom declined in 2006, with particularly worrisome trends evident in Asia, the former Soviet Union, and Latin America. Despite notable improvements in a number of countries, gains were generally overshadowed by a continued, relentless assault on independent news media in a group of geopolitically crucial states, including Russia, Venezuela, Iran, and China, as well as declines in countries with more open press environments, such as Argentina, Brazil, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Thailand. Moreover, a growing number of governments moved in 2006 to restrict internet freedom by censoring, harassing, or shutting down sites that provide alternative sources of news and commentary. 

These disturbing developments constitute the principal findings of Freedom of the Press 2007: A Global Survey of Media Independence, an annual index published by Freedom House since 1980.

The findings reflect a 10-year trend of media freedom stagnation and, in some cases, outright decline in key countries and regions. While press freedom made impressive gains during the 1980s and early 1990s, that progress has stalled in recent years, following a broader pattern of stagnation in political freedom that Freedom House has identified. 

Out of 195 countries and territories assessed, 74 countries (38 percent) were rated Free, 58 (30 percent) were rated Partly Free, and 63 (32 percent) were rated Not Free. This represented a modest improvement from the 2005 assessment: 73 Free countries, 54 Partly Free countries, and 67 Not Free countries. However, the findings for 2006 represent a negative shift from the survey results of five years ago, which was the last recent high point of press freedom.

In terms of population, the survey found that only 18 percent of the world’s inhabitants live in countries that enjoy a Free press, while 39 percent have a Partly Free press and 43 percent have a Not Free press. The relatively negative picture painted by these population figures is due to the impact of two countries—China, with a Not Free rating, and India, with a Partly Free rating—which together account for some two billion of the world’s six billion people. The percentage of those enjoying Free media in 2006 improved slightly from 2005, while the percentage of people who live in countries with a Not Free media environment remained steady.

The overall global average score for press freedom worsened slightly in 2006, continuing a five-year downward trend. The global averages for the legal and political categories also worsened, with the legal category showing the largest decline.

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Freedom of the Press 2007 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