WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Ahead of World Press Freedom Day on Saturday, Gallup's global surveys show perceived media freedom declining in many countries. A median of 63% of adults across 132 countries polled last year say the media in their country have a lot of freedom -- on the low side of the percentages that Gallup has recorded since it started tracking these perceptions in 2010. A median of 26% say their media are not free.
These results coincide with findings from Freedom House's annual Freedom of the Press report released Thursday that describe a decline in press freedom in 2013. Karin Deutsch Karlekar, project director of the 2014 report, noted that Freedom House saw declines in media freedom on a global level. "In 2013, we saw more cases of states targeting foreign reporters and media outlets," Karlekar said.
Freedom House uses independent evaluations of the political, legal, and economic environments in each country to assess the status of media freedom. Freedom House gives each country a score and classifies its media as "not free," "partly free," or "free." Freedom House's Freedom of the Press scores have highly corresponded with the public's perceptions of media that Gallup has measured over the years, and this trend continues with the most recent assessments.
Perceived Press Freedom Declining in Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa) and Chad
Residents in two countries with notable declines in perceived press freedom in 2013 -- the Democratic Republic of Congo and Chad -- are the least likely worldwide to say their media are free. Fewer than one in five in each country characterize their media this way, down from about a third of adults in 2012. About one in four adults in Gabon, Syria, Belarus, and Angola say their media are free. These countries have consistently rated among the lowest in the world on this measure.
Rounding out the list of countries with the lowest percentages of residents saying their media are free are Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), Zimbabwe, Palestinian Territories, Ethiopia, and Honduras; in each of these, more than one-third of adults express this view. Freedom House rates all of these countries as "not free" except Congo Brazzaville, which earns a "partly free" rating.
In addition to souring views of media freedom in Chad and Congo (Kinshasa), there were sizable drops in two other sub-Saharan African countries in 2013. About half of residents in Guinea (53%) say their media are free, down from two-thirds (67%) in 2012. Likewise, in Nigeria about four in 10 adults (41%) say their country's media are free, down from 56% in 2012.
Residents of Honduras are the least likely in Latin America to say their media are free after perceptions of media freedom dropped by 17 percentage points in 2013. Venezuelans were also more critical of media freedom in 2013. Half of adults there say their media are free, down from 66% in 2012. Freedom House also observed declines in press freedom in these two countries, citing rising government influence over the media.
Residents in North America, Europe Most Likely to View Press as Free
European countries and Canada and the United States continue to dominate the list of countries where residents are most likely to say their media have a lot of freedom; these perceptions have changed little over the last few years. Greece is one European country where residents and expert evaluators alike are noting major declines in media freedom. Less than half of Greeks (46%) in 2013 said their media are free, down from two-thirds (67%) in 2012 -- one of the largest declines worldwide.
Media freedom lost ground in many countries in 2013, with double-digit declines in perceived freedom in 10 countries. As members of the international community gather to celebrate World Press Freedom Day and look to develop policies to further the cause of press freedom, it would benefit these stakeholders to take a close look at both the expert evaluations and the views expressed by the people living in these countries.
For complete country-level results, see page 2.
For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact us.
Results are based on face-to-face and telephone interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in each country, aged 15 and older, conducted between 2010 and 2013. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error ranging from a low of 1.5 percentage points in the United Kingdom and a high of 5.8 percentage points in Northern Cyprus. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.
For more complete methodology and specific survey dates, please review Gallup's Country Data Set details.