Are the media free? What people said around the world

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Where do people believe that their media are free? A Gallup Poll in 133 nations around the world asked whether residents believed journalists in their countries were free to report the news.

Worldwide, nearly two of three people said yes. But the numbers differ greatly from country to country. In Belarus, less than one of four people thought the media were free, the lowest level found in the poll. Belarus has a repressive government that persecutes journalists, according to Human Rights Watch:


Severe restrictions on freedoms of association, assembly, and media remain and the level of repression is unprecedented. ... The authorities routinely threatened the independent print media, and on several occasions blocked social media and other websites. Police arrested dozens of journalists covering pro-democracy protests in December and the later “silent” protests. For example, in May 2011 a court handed independent journalist Iryna Khalip a two-year suspended sentence on trumped-up riot charges in connection with the December protests. In May the authorities initiated closure proceedings for the independent newspapers Nasha Niva and Narodnaya Vola. Although legal proceedings were discontinued in August, both newspapers received fines for trumped-up violations of media law. In July a court convicted Andrzej Poczobut, a correspondent for the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza, for defaming Lukashenka. In his articles Poczobut called President Lukashenka a dictator. He was handed a three-year suspended sentence. In September a higher court upheld the conviction.

The Times reported last year on the tension in Belarus: ‘The country lives in fear and people are arrested every day on fake charges as [President Alexander] Lukashenko is preparing the nation for big political trials of the opposition leaders,’ editor Svetlana Kalinkina said, fearful her newspaper would be shuttered.

People were also dubious of media freedom in Gabon, Armenia, Mauritania, Congo and the Palestinian territories. Their perceptions of media freedom usually matched the ratings given by Freedom House, an international free speech group; the exceptions were Botswana, Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Kuwait and Liberia, where 80% of people or more thought the media were free but Freedom House disagreed.

In contrast, almost everyone polled in Finland and the Netherlands thought the media were free. People also were highly likely to believe that media were free in Australia, Ghana, Germany and Sweden.

Gallup created this map showing where people believe the media are free and where they don’t. The darker green the country is on the map, the fewer people believe that the media are free:

To see an interactive version of this map, check out the Gallup blog.



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