Media Freedom:
Conceptualizing and Operationalizing the Outcome of Media Democratization


Lee B. Becker, Tudor Vlad and Nancy Nusser


In the last decade and a half, media reform and media freedom have come under close scrutiny by governmental and nongovernmental organizations as well as academic scholars. Media reform and freedom often are viewed as intrinsically important and are seen by many as related to development of democratic institutions and a civil society. In the view of some, media reform is needed for media freedom, and media freedom is a necessary condition for democratization.

Because of the importance of media freedom, western governments have invested heavily in training of media workers and in media reform in order to bring it about. In addition, a number of prominent governmental and nongovernmental organizations have developed indices of press freedom, at least implicitly so as to judge the consequences of and need for media reform. The methodologies employed in creating these indices of media freedom are not always transparent, however, and charges are often made about biases in the underlying assumptions behind them. Nor are the conceptual bases for the indices always obvious. It is possible that the competing indices measure different concepts, measure the same concept unreliably, or measure the same concepts in a reliable but invalid way.

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