Henry Brady, left, outside School of Public Policy on the Berkeley campus.

Research Shows Media Freedom Measures Meet Criteria for Government Indicators

The director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research at the University of Georgia told a gathering of researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, in late October that existing media freedom indicators meet standard criteria for evaluating such indices.

The measures of media freedom by Freedom House in Washington, Reporters Without Borders in Paris and IREX are highly correlated, Dr. Lee B. Becker told the group, and they are related to other measures in expected ways, he said.

Dr. Becker summarized recent research in the Cox Center to 40 scholars gathered to discuss Democracy Audits and Governmental Indicators in the Goldman School of Public Policy on the Berkeley campus.

The researchers in their two days of deliberations identified problems in measuring such complex problems as democracy, good governance, state stability and media freedom.

Dr. Becker joined Dr. Holli Semetko of Emory University in Atlanta as experts in measurement of media system characteristics in a panel on elections, press freedom and rule of law on Oct. 30, the first day of the conference.

Other panels at the workshop looked at measures of human rights, corruption, state fragility, as well as democracy. Most of those attending were political scientists.

The invitation-only conference was organized by the American Political Science Association. Henry Brady, dean of the Goldman School, is president-elect of APSA.

Dr. Becker told the participants that recent research conducted in collaboration with Cox Center Associate Director Dr. Tudor Vlad attempts to determine if the evaluations of media freedom by the three organizations engaged in the work were related to independent measures of media freedom from samples of the general population in the countries studied.

In fact, Dr. Becker said, in at least the 21 diverse countries for which data are available, the public agrees with the evaluations conducted by the evaluators from Freedom House, Reporters Without Borders and IREX.

At the same time, according to Dr. Becker, the three evaluation organizations face big challenges in the future as a result of the changes in the work of journalists around the world.

“All of the indicators are attempting to incorporate the Internet into their evaluation procedures,” he said, but it is not yet clear how journalists will work in the future, making it difficult for the evaluators to guess how they will need to measure media freedom in the future.

The Cox Center is the international research and outreach arm of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.