Image from Gallup May 2 report.

Perceived Media Freedom Declining, Researchers Conclude

Public perceptions of media freedom are declining in many countries, researchers at Gallup and the University of Georgia reported in the runup to World Press Freedom Day on May 3.

A median of 63 percent of adults across 132 countries polled last year say the media in their country have a lot of freedom, the researchers reported.

This figure is on the low side of the percentages that Gallup has recorded since it started tracking these perceptions in 2010. A median of 26 percent in 2013 said their media were not free.

Cynthia English, a research analyst at Gallup, and Dr. Lee B. Becker, director of the James M. Cox Jr. Center for International Mass Communication Training and Research, reported these findings in a story appearing on the web site of Gallup on May 2.

The pair have worked on public opinion measures of media freedom since 2005 and have been joined by Dr. Tudor Vlad, associate director of the Cox International Center.

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

The Gallup May 2 report is based on data from the Gallup World Poll, which regularly surveys adult residents in more than 160 countries and areas, representing more than 98 percent of the world’s adult population.

English and Becker noted that the results from the public opinion analyses coincide with findings from Freedom House's annual Freedom of the Press report, also released just before World Press Freedom Day. Freedom House also found a decline in press freedom in 2013.

Residents in two countries with notable declines in perceived press freedom in 2013 in the Freedom House report, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad, were the least likely worldwide to say their media are free, the researchers reported.

Fewer than one in five in each country characterize their media this way, down from about a third of adults in 2012. About one in four adults in Gabon, Syria, Belarus, and Angola say their media are free. These countries have consistently rated among the lowest in the world on this measure.

The Gallup report is available here.