Aug. 2, 2010, 1:43 p.m.
A free press is a vital aspect of any democratic society. The democracy assistance community has devoted considerable effort, not just to media freedom programs, but to methods of evaluating the state of press freedom in every country. Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders are two such organizations that have developed an impressive catalog of information in an effort to rate countries' media environments. The Center for International Media Assistance has recently released a report, which questions the methodology of some of these methods, and offers suggestions on how to develop a more region specific approach to measuring the success of media freedom efforts in a specific country.
CIMA is pleased to release a new report, Evaluating the Evaluators: Media Freedom Indexes and What They Measure, in cooperation with the Center for Global Communication Studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication. All over the world, studies that rank countries by media freedom figure prominently in civil liberties debates, aid programming, foreign policy decisions, and academic research. Evaluating the Evaluators: Media Freedom Indexes and What They Measure examines the strengths and shortcomings of existing media freedom indexes and offers recommendations to improve them. In view of the breadth and depth of these studies, the report recommends that organizations that evaluate press freedom continue to refine their methodology by increasing technical sophistication, cultural neutrality, and transparency and that they incorporate digital media into their evaluations. The report, by John Burgess, a former Washington Post reporter and editor who specializes in international affairs and technology, is based on a collection of academic papers on this subject submitted to the Annenberg School for Communication.