Media Freedom Indices: What They Tell Us – And What They Don’t

Every year organizations such as Reporters Without Borders and Freedom House publish their respective press freedom rankings. They usually cause an outcry, especially from countries low on the list. While politicians hotly defend their media policies, opposition parties and NGOs seize the opportunity to criticize the government’s approach.

Freedom of the press rankings are of global interest and spark international debates. They also play an important role in determining the amount of media development aid a country receives. However, it is not always clear what the strengths and weaknesses of the individual rankings are and how these rankings are conducted.

In the first of a new publication series, Edition DW Akademie, media researcher Laura Schneider uses data as well as interviews with experts to examine the methodology used in each of the five best known press freedom indices. She takes a closer look at the organizations doing the ranking as well as how they conduct their respective ratings. Schneider also investigates the advantages and disadvantages of each index and points to aspects which could be improved.

Written by Laura Schneider, and published by Deutsche Welle in June 2014