New publication: Analyzing media freedom

(PresseBox) (Bonn, ) While press freedom rankings determine national and international media policies, it is not always clear how objective these rankings really are. A new DW Akademie publication takes a closer look.

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 aid a country receives for media development. However, it is not always clear what the strengths and weaknesses of these individual rankings are and how these rankings are conducted.

Lack of objectivity

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 investigates the advantages and disadvantages of each index and points to aspects which could be improved.

Schneider's biggest criticism is that the ratings aren't objective, often being carried out by a handful of academics or media experts who are mostly from western countries. This inevitably results in a bias, especially as the majority of the ranking organizations fail to state their individual definition of media freedom.

"Each ranking has its strong as well as its weak points and it's important to know what these are, especially when using them to determine international media policies and the distribution of aid," says Schneider.

Critical analysis

"Media Freedom Indices. What They Tell Us - And What They Don't takes a critical look at international press freedom rankings," says Petra Berner, Head of DW Akademie's Research and Development division. "The aim," says DW Akademie Director Christian Gramsch, "is to increase awareness of how these rankings are carried out so that the information they contain can be used fairly."

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