Central European University.

Cox Research Team Finds Media Freedom Indicators Linked to Public Opinion about Media Freedom

Countries rated high in media freedom by the U.S. organization Freedom House and the French Reporters Without Borders also are rated as having press freedom by their citizens, providing confirming evidence that the U.S. and French evaluators have value, according to researchers at the University of Georgia.

Drs. Lee B. Becker and Tudor Vlad released the results of their study of media freedom indicators at a conference in Budapest, Hungary, in late June. The two are director and associate director, respectively, of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research.

The Cox Center is a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

The pair examined the differing measures of media freedom of countries of the world compiled each year by Freedom House in New York and Reporters Without Borders in Paris as well as a related measure of Media Sustainability by the International Research and Exchange Board in Washington.

The analysis showed that the three organizations reach similar conclusions about the status of the media in the countries they evaluate, leading Drs. Becker and Vlad to conclude that neither the rating organization or the country in which they are based makes much of a difference.

The research team also compared the responses of citizens surveyed by the Gallup Organization and WorldPublicOpinion.org at the University of Maryland with the ratings.

They found that citizens were more likely to have confidence in the media in those countries considered to have a professional media by IREX and more likely to think their media were free in those countries rated by Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders as free.

The analysis is an extension of research done by the Georgia researches in the past but different from that earlier research because it used the public opinion data for comparisons for the first time.

The researchers presented their findings to “Beyond East & West, Two Decades of Media Transformation after the Fall of Communism,” an international conference organized by the Center for Media and Communication Studies at Central European University in collaboration with the International Communication Association and Annenberg School for Communication, University of Pennsylvania.

More than 250 researchers from about 25 countries attended the conference, held June 25 to 27 at the Central European University in Budapest.

In the session at which Drs. Becker and Vlad presented their papers, representatives of Freedom House and IREX also summarized the methodologies used in their research.