Published every year since 2002 by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), the World Press Freedom Index is an important advocacy tool based on the principle of emulation between states. Because it is well known, its influence over governments is growing. The Index is a point of reference that is quoted by media throughout the world and is used by diplomats and international entities such as the United Nations and the World Bank.
WHAT DOES IT MEASURE?
The Index ranks 180 countries and regions according to the level of freedom available to journalists. It is a snapshot of the media freedom situation based on an evaluation of pluralism, independence of the media, quality of legislative framework and safety of journalists in each country and region. It does not rank public policies even if governments obviously have a major impact on their country’s ranking. Nor is it an indicator of the quality of journalism in each country or region.
THE GLOBAL INDICATOR AND REGIONAL INDICATORS
Along with the Index, RSF calculates a global indicator and regional indicators that evaluate the overall performance of countries and regions (in the world and in each region) as regards media freedom. It is an absolute measure that complements the Index’s comparative rankings. The global indicator is the average of the regional indicators, each of which is obtained by averaging the scores of all the countries in the region, weighted according to their population as given by the World Bank.
HOW THE INDEX IS COMPILED
The degree of freedom available to journalists in 180 countries and regions is determined by pooling the responses of experts to a questionnaire devised by RSF. This qualitative analysis is combined with quantitative data on abuses and acts of violence against journalists during the period evaluated. The criteria used in the questionnaire are pluralism, media independence, media environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency, and the quality of the infrastructure that supports the production of news and information.T
To compile the Index, RSF has developed an online questionnaire focusing on the subjects specified above. This year’s questionnaire was slightly less detailed that in the past but, thanks to statistical analysis, the data gathered continued to permit comparison with previous years.
Translated into 20 languages including English, Arabic, Chinese, Russian, Indonesian and Korean, the questionnaire is sent to journalists, media lawyers, researchers and other media specialists selected by RSF in the 180 countries and regions covered by the Index. Each country and region is assigned a score based on the answers provided by these experts and on the figures for acts of violence and abuses against journalists during the previous year.
THE DATA ON ABUSES
A team of in-house specialists, each assigned to a different geographical region, keeps a detailed tally of abuses and violence against journalists and media outlets. These reasearchers also rely on a network of correspondents in 130 countries. The Abuses indicator for each country is calculated on the basis of the data about the intensity of abuses and violence against media actors during the period evaluated. This quantitative indicator is then used to weight the qualitative analysis of the situation in the country based on the replies to the questionnaires.
THE PRESS FREEDOM MAP
The press freedom map, which is distributed in print and digital versions, offers a visual overview of the sitution in each country and region in the Index. The colour categories are assigned as follows: good (white), fairly good (yellow), problematic (orange), bad (red) and very bad (black).