Methodology | Page 351 | Freedom House


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This survey of 187 countries expands a process conducted since 1979 by Freedom House. The findings are widely used by governments, academics, and the news media in many countries. The degree to which each country permits the free flow of information determines the classification of its media as "Free," "Partly Free," or "Not Free." The criteria for such judgments and the arithmetic scheme for displaying the judgments are described below. Assigning numerical points facilitates judgment. Countries scoring 0 to 30 are regarded as having "Free" media, 31 to 60, "Partly Free" media, and 61 to 100, "Not Free" media.

The criteria: As with Freedom in the World (the annual Freedom House survey of political rights and civil liberties), this study is based on universal criteria. The starting point is the smallest, most universal unit of concern: the individual. We recognize cultural differences, diverse national interests, and varying levels of economic development. Yet the Universal Declaration of Human Rights instructs: Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference and to seek, receive, and impart information and ideas through any media regardless of frontiers (Article 19).

The operative word for this survey is everyone. All states, from the most democratic to the most authoritarian, are committed to this doctrine through the United Nations system. To deny that doctrine is to deny the universality of information freedom-a basic human right. We recognize that cultural distinctions or economic underdevelopment may limit the volume of news flows within a country, but these and other arguments are not acceptable explanations for outright centralized control of the content of news and information. Some poor countries allow for the exchange of diverse views, while some developed countries restrict content diversity. We seek to recognize press freedom wherever it exists, in poor and rich countries, as well as in countries of various ethnic, religious, and cultural backgrounds.

The method and changes: Through the years, we have refined and expanded our methodology. This survey reflects yet another series of changes from our preceding press-freedom surveys. The changes are intended to simplify the presentation of information without altering the comparability of data for a given country over the 23-year span, or of the comparative ratings of all countries over that period. We have indicated (by a marginal * beside the country name) those few cases in which the new system has produced numerical ratings that reflect a purely methodological change rather than a change in the real standing of the media of information in the country. In the case of certain countries, improvements or declines in this year's score have been the result of the new scoring system as well as the events of 2001.

Our first concern is the structure of the news-delivery system as functioning under the country's laws and administrative decisions; and, as well, their influence on the content of the print and broadcast media. This rating appears as numerical rating "A" in the boldface line beside the country name.

Second, under numerical rating "B" we evaluate the degree of political influence over the content of news media. Political power, even in the most democratic nations, seeks to manage the news. Democratic systems, however, create checks and balances to minimize state domination of the news media. This category includes issues of access to

information and sources, censorship, and the intimidation of journalists by the state or other actors.

Third, under numerical rating "C" we examine economic influences on media content, including pressure by government funding, corruption, withholding of government advertising as a selective pressure point, or bias in licensing, or quotas for newsprint or other material needs of the media. We also examine the negative impact of market competition in the private sector.

(In our past surveys, a separate category on the rating line included a category "D" reflecting actual press-freedom violations. In this survey we include such violations within the respective "B" and "C" categories as cases of actual political or economic pressure on the content of information. In recent years the survey also provided two numerical lines, one for broadcast media and one for print media; this survey combines the two into one rating line.)

The numbers: Category "A" based on five criteria is scored from 0 to 30 points, the higher number being the least free. Category "B" employing eight criteria is scored from 0 to 40 points. Category "C" with six criteria is scored from 0 to 30 points. Each country's rating is based on the total of the three categories: a total of 0-30 places the country in the free-press group, 31-60 in partly-free, and 61-100 in the not free-press group.

Sources: Our data come from correspondents overseas, staff travel, international visitors, the findings of human rights (including press freedom) organizations, specialists in geographic and geopolitical areas, the reports of governments (including the U.S. State Department and governments surveyed), and a variety of domestic and international news media.

Press responsibility: This survey does not assess the degree to which the press in any country serves responsibly, reflecting a high ethical standard. The issue of "press responsibility" is often raised to defend governmental control of the press. Indeed, a truly irresponsible press does a disservice to its public and diminishes its own credibility. A governmental effort to rein in the press on the pretext of making the press "responsible" has far worse results, in most cases. This issue is reflected in the degree of freedom in the flow of information as assessed in the survey.


A- Laws and regulations that influence media content; scale: 0-30

B- Political pressures, controls, and violence that influence content; scale 0-40

C- Economic pressures and controls that influence content; scale 0-30

RATING: Free, 0-30; Partly Free, 31-60; Not Free, 61-100