Freedom of the Press

Freedom of the Press 2006

Conditions for press freedom showed mixed results in 2005, as a combination of positive and negative trends left the overall global level of media independence registering only a slight decline from the previous year. Improvements in press freedom due to politically driven change were noted in countries in the former Soviet Union such as Kyrgyzstan and Ukraine, as well as in a number of countries in West Africa, including Liberia and Mauritania. A positive regional trend continued in the Middle East and North Africa, although this was seen as a result primarily of the impact of pan-Arab electronic media, rather than specific actions taken by the governments of the region to liberalize the environment for the press. However, these gains were outweighed by setbacks in a number of key countries in Africa and Asia, including some that had previously registered improvements and had been seen to be moving on a positive trend line. The most significant declines of 2005 occurred in the Asian countries of East Timor, Nepal, the Philippines, and Thailand and the Sub-Saharan African countries of Botswana, Ethiopia, and Uganda. This deterioration in press freedom, particularly in countries that had made overall democratic progress (including in press freedom) in the past, underscored the need to remain vigilant about the erosion of press freedom in countries with democratically elected governments.

In 2005, out of 194 countries and territories surveyed, 73 countries (38 percent) were rated Free, 54 (28 percent) were rated Partly Free, and 67 (34 percent) were rated Not Free (comparable numbers for the previous survey were 75 Free countries, 50 Partly Free countries, and 69 Not Free countries). Category shifts in 2005 suggested a trend of convergence toward the middle Partly Free category. Overall, 2 countries, East Timor and Botswana, moved from Free to Partly Free, while 2 countries, Kenya and Mauritania, improved from Not Free to Partly Free.

In terms of population, the survey found that 17 percent of the world's inhabitants live in countries that enjoy a Free press, while 40 percent have a Partly Free press and 43 percent have a Not Free press. The relatively negative picture painted by examining population figures can be explained by the fact that China, with its large population, is rated Not Free, and the almost equally populous country of India is rated Partly Free, thus vastly limiting the percentage of people worldwide who have access to Free media. Over the past year, the percentage of those enjoying Free media has declined slightly, while the percentage of people who live in countries with a Not Free media environment has decreased by two percentage points, which indicates that more countries are moving into the "gray zone" of partial media freedom.

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Freedom of the Press 2006 Release Materials:

Note: Reports with asterisks in the following list are for territories rather than countries.

Americas

Asia-Pacific

Eurasia

Europe

Middle East and North Africa

Sub-Saharan Africa