Image of report cover provided by CIMA.

Research Shows Changes In Media Freedom Go Hand-In-Hand With Changes In Democracy

Media freedom and political freedom are tightly related, but it is not possible empirically to demonstrate that changes in media freedom precede or follow changes in democratic political freedoms.

This is the conclusion reached by Dr. Karin Deutsch Karlekar and Dr. Lee B. Becker based on analysis of measures of press freedom and political freedom gathered by Freedom House, a nongovernmental organization based in New York and Washington.

Dr. Karlekar is the project director of Freedom of the Press, an annual index that tracks trends in media freedom worldwide. She coordinates the research, ratings, and editorial processes for the index, and also writes a number of the country reports on Africa and South Asia.

Dr. Becker is director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, a unit of the Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication at the University of Georgia.

With a grant from the National Endowment for Democracy through its Center for International Media Assistance, the two analyzed data from the Freedom House Freedom in the World report and the Freedom House Freedom in the Press Report going back to 1980.

They used both quantitative analysis of the measures and country case studies in reaching their conclusion that press freedom is an integral part of freedom generally.

“Trends in one move most often in tandem with trends in the other,” the two authors write in their report of the findings, “suggesting both that media freedom is unlikely to emerge and be sustained in the absence of improvements in broader political rights and civil liberties and that declines in press freedom almost always accompany or foreshadow a downturn in freedom more broadly.”

The findings, the research concluded, have implications for academic, theoretical research on media freedom and democracy as well as for those who work in the fields of democracy promotion and media development.

The report is downloadable from the web site of the Center for International Media Assistance.