Measuring Democracy – Reports on Press Freedom by Reporters Sans Frontiers

Reporters sans frontiers are another source of information on the state of press freedom. The report of RSF that is conducted annually is in terms of content and topic covered very similar to the reports of the CPJ and IPI. The area covered, like in the previously mentioned sources are legislative framework in which media operate, legal restrictions in terms of access to information, restrictions on publishing of materials related to some “sensitive” topics, presence and broadness of anti defamation laws. They also record issues like governmental interference in the editorial and personnel policy of media and pressures from the government institutions like financial and judicial pressures, restrictions on broadcasting and publishing resources and other types of harassment that can be interpreted as pressures and obstruction of media. The report includes problems like arrests and detentions of journalists, trials of journalists for different reasons, attacks and harassment of journalists and finally the death of journalists.

The number of countries included in the report is 149, and they are divided into 5 regions. The report does not give any information on who provides information for each country, nor how reports are made. Pretty much all that has been said for CPJ and IPI can be also said for this source. The reports are descriptive and they focus only on identifying problems. The reports depend on the type of problem that is present in the different countries. There is no common pattern with regard to the level of details of information presented for different countries in the report. Some reports tend to contain quite significant level of detail in describing individual cases, while others do not. The reports do not have common structure and are not made according to any observable standards. They do not have indicators and do not compare countries, nor do they give rankings. The reports include chapters that deal with killings of journalists, attacks on journalists, arrest and detention of journalists and pressure and obstruction of their activity from the side of government.

However, the RSF report has five groups of countries regarding the level of press freedom. Countries are assigned to each category according to the perceived state of the press freedom, but criteria for assignment are not given.

The categories are:
1. Good situation;
2. Satisfactory situation;
3. Noticeable problems;
4. Difficult situation; and
5. Very serious situation.

Like IPI and CPJ, the RSF are good source of raw material, they have quite extensive descriptive reports, all three cover a large number of cases and between themselves they cover about 180 countries, and data from all three sources are available for around 140 countries. All reports are available on the Internet, for IPI from 1996 to 2001, for CPJ for 2000 and 2001 and for RSF for 2001. The countries grouped by region that were included into RSF report in 2001 were:
In the Americas: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, USA, Venezuela.

In Asia: Australia, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Buthan, Cambodia, China, East Timor, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nauru, Nepal, New Zealand, North Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Thailand, Vietnam.

In Europe: Albania, Armenia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Latvia, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, Turkmenistan, UK, Ukraine, Uzbekistan, Yugoslavia.

In the Middle East and North Africa: Algeria Bahrain Egypt Iran Iraq Israel Jordan Kuwait Lebanon Libya Mauritania Morocco Palestinian Authority Qatar Saudi Arabia Sudan Syria Tunisia United Arab Emirates Yemen.

In Africa: Angola Benin Botswana Burkina Faso Burundi Cameroon Central African Republic Chad Comoros Islands D. R. of Congo Rep. of Congo Djibouti Equatorial Guinea Eritrea Ethiopia Gambia Gabon Ghana Guinea Guinea-Bissau Kenya Liberia Malawi Mali Mozambique Namibia Niger Nigeria Senegal Sierra Leone Somalia South Africa Swaziland Tanzania Togo Uganda Zambia Zimbabwe.

The data from all three sources are descriptive, and they only register the events, or to be more precise problems, that took place in the countries included. They do not have checklist of topic and they do not estimate the situation for particular area. The reports only register problems and therefore not all reports contain information about same topics. Because of that the creation of the measurement scale that could be more sensitive other then recording the present or absence of some event is not very likely to succeed. Therefore the similar approach that was used for AI, HRW and ICFTU could be used here.

The set of indicators for measuring the press freedom from the data from these three sources could include following indicators:
1. Death of journalists (while performing their work)
2. Arrests and detentions of journalists (including trials for different charges)
3. Attacks on journalists and harassment of journalists (all types of violence on journalists regardless of source and character)
4. Existence of legal limitation on press freedom (anti defamation laws, laws restricting access to information and restricting the publishing of certain information)
5. Censorship and banning of media
6. Pressures on media, interference in, and obstruction of media activities (financial pressures, restriction on publishing and broadcast resources, liability and damages charges, interference in editorial policy).

The measurement scale could, like for AI and HRW and for ICFTU, could have three points. 0 to indicate the absence of some types of restrictions. 0,5 to indicate the presence that was not widespread and was not the result of deliberate policy or deliberate failure to prevent such events. Score 1 to indicated widespread occurrence, systematic occurrence by government institutions and government unwillingness to prevent it.
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