Methodology

Read a Country or a Territory Report

PDF versionPDF version

This survey of 193 countries expands a process conducted since 1980 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." 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 for such judgments and the arithmetic scheme for displaying the judgments are described below. Assigning numerical points allows for comparative analysis among the countries surveyed as well as facilitating an examination of trends over time.

 

Criteria

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 Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights holds that:

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.

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 UN 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.

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. However, governmental efforts 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.

 

Sources

Our data come from correspondents overseas, staff travel, international visitors, the findings of human rights and press freedom organizations, specialists in geographic and geopolitical areas, the reports of governments and multilateral bodies, and a variety of domestic and international news media. We would particularly like to thank other members of the International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX) network for providing detailed and timely analyses of press freedom violations in a variety of countries worldwide.

 

Methodology

Through the years, we have refined and expanded our methodology. Recent changes to our methodology are intended to simplify the presentation of information without altering the comparability of data for a given country over the 24-year span of the Survey's existence, or of the comparative ratings of all countries over that period. Our examination of the level of press freedom in each country is divided into three broad categories: the legal environment, political influences, and economic pressures.

The legal environment encompasses an examination of the laws and regulations that could influence media content as well as the government's inclination to use these laws to restrict the ability of media to operate. We assess the positive impact of legal and constitutional guarantees for freedom of expression, as well as the potentially negative aspects of security legislation, the penal code and other criminal statutes, penalties for libel and defamation, and registration requirements for both media outlets and journalists.

In considering political influences, we evaluate the degree of political control over the content of news media. Issues examined in this category include access to information and sources, editorial independence, official censorship and self-censorship, the ability of the media to operate freely and without harassment, and the intimidation of journalists by the state or other actors.

Finally, we examine economic pressures on the media, which include the structure of media ownership, the costs of establishing media outlets as well as of production and distribution, the selective withholding of state advertising or subsidies, official bias in licensing, and the impact of corruption and bribery on content.

 

Ratings

Each country is rated in these three categories, with the higher numbers indicating less freedom. A country's total score is based on the total of the three categories: a score of 0-30 places the country in the Free press group; 31-60 in the Partly Free; and 61-100 in the Not Free press group.

 

Legend

Country Status: Free (0-30) Partly Free (31-60) Not Free (61-100)

LEGAL ENVIRONMENT: 0-30 POINTS
POLITICAL INFLUENCES: 0-40 POINTS
ECONOMIC PRESSURES: 0-30 POINTS


TOTAL SCORE: 0-100 POINTS