Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the Press 2008

A Year of Global Decline

Press freedom declined on a global scale in 2007, with particularly worrisome trends evident in the former Soviet Union, Asia, and sub-Saharan Africa. This marked the sixth straight year of overall deterioration. Improvements in a small number of countries were overshadowed by a continued, relentless assault on independent news media by a wide range of actors, in both authoritarian states and countries with relatively open media environments. Unsurprisingly, many declines—such as those in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Georgia—took place in the context of broader political crises that led to crackdowns on the media. A number of these crackdowns appeared to focus on newer forms of media, such as satellite television and internet-based news outlets, which are helping to provide more diverse and independent sources of information in otherwise restrictive media environments. 

These disturbing developments constitute the principal findings of Freedom of the Press 2008: A Global Survey of Media Independence, an annual index published by Freedom House since 1980.  

The Freedom of the Press index assesses the degree of print, broadcast, and internet freedom in every country in the world, analyzing the events and developments of each calendar year. Ratings are determined through an examination of three broad categories: the legal environment in which media operate; political influences on reporting and access to information; and economic pressures on content and the dissemination of news. Under the legal category, we assess the laws and regulations that could influence media content as well as the extent to which the government uses these tools to restrict the media’s ability to function. The political category encompasses a variety of issues, including editorial pressure by the government or other actors; censorship and self-censorship; the ability of reporters to cover the news; and the extralegal intimidation of and violence against journalists. Finally, under the economic category we examine issues such as the structure, transparency, and concentration of media ownership; costs of production and distribution; and the impact of advertising, subsidies, and bribery on content. Ratings reflect not just government actions and policies, but the behavior of the press itself in testing boundaries, even in more restrictive environments. Each country receives a numerical rating from 0 (the most free) to 100 (the least free), which serves as the basis for a press freedom status designation of “Free,” “Partly Free,” or “Not Free.”

Of the 195 countries and territories assessed in the latest survey, 72 (37 percent) were rated Free, 59 (30 percent) were rated Partly Free, and 64 (33 percent) were rated Not Free. This represented a modest decline from the 2007 survey, covering the year 2006: 74 Free, 58 Partly Free, and 63 Not Free countries and territories. The findings for the year 2007 also represent a negative shift from the survey results of six 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 40 percent have a Partly Free press and 42 percent have a Not Free press. These figures are notably affected by two countries—China, with a Not Free status, and India, with a Partly Free status—which together account for more than two billion of the world’s six billion people. The percentage of those enjoying Free media in 2007 remained steady, while the percentage of people who live in countries with a Partly Free media environment improved slightly from 39 percent in 2006. 

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Freedom of the Press 2008 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