Freedom and the Media 2019 Methodology | Freedom House

Freedom and the Media 2019 Methodology


Freedom and the Media 2019 draws on data generated in the course of Freedom House’s Freedom in the World report to provide a global view of press freedom. The 2019 edition covers developments in 195 countries and 14 territories from January 1, 2018, through December 31, 2018.:

The report’s methodology is derived in large measure from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1948. Freedom and the Media is based on the premise that these standards apply to all countries and territories, irrespective of geographical location, ethnic or religious composition, or level of economic development.

Freedom and the Media assesses the real-world press freedom enjoyed by individuals, rather than governments or government performance per se. Press freedom can be affected by both state and nonstate actors, including insurgents and other armed groups.;

Freedom House does not believe that legal guarantees of press freedom are sufficient for on-the-ground fulfillment of those rights. While both laws and actual practices are factored into scoring decisions, greater emphasis is placed on implementation.

Territories are selected for assessment in Freedom and the Media based on the following criteria:

  • whether the area is governed separately from the rest of the relevant country or countries, either de jure or de facto;
  • whether conditions on the ground for political rights and civil liberties are significantly different from those in the rest of the relevant country or countries, meaning a separate assessment is likely to yield different ratings;
  • whether the territory is the subject of enduring popular or diplomatic pressure for autonomy, independence, or incorporation into another country;
  • whether the territory’s boundaries are sufficiently stable to allow an assessment of conditions for the year under review, and whether they can be expected to remain stable in future years so that year-on-year comparisons are possible; and
  • whether the territory is large and/or politically significant.

Freedom House typically takes no position on territorial or separatist disputes as such, focusing instead on the level of political rights and civil liberties in a given geographical area.

Research and Ratings Review Process

The scores for Freedom and the Media were determined through the process of Freedom in the World, using a team of in-house and external analysts and expert advisers from the academic, think tank, and human rights communities. The 2019 edition involved more than 100 analysts and more than 30 advisers. The analysts use a broad range of sources, including news articles, academic analyses, reports from nongovernmental organizations, individual professional contacts, and on-the-ground research. The analysts score countries and territories based on the conditions and events within their borders during the coverage period. The analysts’ proposed scores are discussed and defended at a series of review meetings, organized by region and attended by Freedom House staff and a panel of expert advisers. The final scores represent the consensus of the analysts, advisers, and staff. Although an element of subjectivity is unavoidable in such an enterprise, the ratings process emphasizes methodological consistency, intellectual rigor, and balanced and unbiased judgments.

A country or territory is awarded 0 (least free) to 4 (most free) points for the press freedom indicator. The scores from the 2018 edition of Freedom in the World were used as a benchmark for the current year under review. A score is typically changed only if there has been a real-world development during the year that warrants a decline or improvement (e.g., a crackdown on the media), though gradual changes in conditions—in the absence of a signal event—are occasionally registered in the scores..

The following is the full text for the press freedom indicator, which is also designated as D1 in the Freedom in the World methodology. The full Freedom in the World methodology is available here.

Are there free and independent media? (Note: “Media” refers to all relevant sources of news and commentary—including formal print, broadcast, and online news outlets, as well as social media and communication applications when they are used to gather or disseminate news and commentary for the general public. The question also applies to artistic works in any medium.)

  • Are the media directly or indirectly censored?
  • Is self-censorship common among journalists (the term includes professional journalists, bloggers, and citizen journalists), especially when reporting on sensitive issues, including politics, social controversies, corruption, or the activities of powerful individuals?
  • Are journalists subject to pressure or surveillance aimed at identifying their sources?
  • Are libel, blasphemy, security, or other restrictive laws used to punish journalists who scrutinize government officials and policies or other powerful entities through either onerous fines or imprisonment?
  • Is it a crime to insult the honor and dignity of the president and/or other government officials? How broad is the range of such prohibitions, and how vigorously are they enforced?
  • If media outlets are dependent on the government for their financial survival, does the government condition funding on the outlets’ cooperation in promoting official points of view and/or denying access to opposition parties and civic critics? Do powerful private actors engage in similar practices?
  • Do the owners of private media exert improper editorial control over journalists or publishers, skewing news coverage to suit their personal business or political interests?
  • Is media coverage excessively partisan, with the majority of outlets consistently favoring either side of the political spectrum?
  • Does the government attempt to influence media content and access through means including politically motivated awarding or suspension of broadcast frequencies and newspaper registrations, unfair control and influence over printing facilities and distribution networks, blackouts of internet or mobile service, selective distribution of advertising, onerous operating requirements, prohibitive tariffs, and bribery?
  • Are journalists threatened, harassed online, arrested, imprisoned, beaten, or killed by government or nonstate actors for their legitimate journalistic activities, and if such cases occur, are they investigated and prosecuted fairly and expeditiously?
  • Do women journalists encounter gender-specific obstacles to carrying out their work, including threats of sexual violence or strict gender segregation?
  • Are works of literature, art, music, or other forms of cultural expression censored or banned for political purposes?