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Media Sustainability Index


International Research and Exchanges Board (IREX)

Stated Purpose: 

Designed as a tool to measure media development, as well as to assess changes in media systems over time.

Area of Governance: 
Funding Source: 


Current usage: 

Used as an advocacy tool.

Type of data used: 

The results are based upon a combination of expert panel and IREX staff assessments against a pre-specified set of norms.


Country Coverage: 80 countries 
Year Coverage: 2001- present (normally annual)

Contact details: 

2121 K Street NW
Suite 700
Washington, DC 20037
Tel: +1 (202) 628-8188


The index is compiled using a system which scores countries against a specified set of freedoms. The scores are averaged within each of the 5 aspects measured, namely:

  1. Legal and social norms protect and promote free speech and access to public information.
  2. Journalism meets professional standards of quality.
  3. Multiple news sources provide citizens with reliable, objective news.
  4. Media are well-managed enterprises, allowing editorial independence.
  5. Supporting institutions function in the professional interests of independent media.

An expert panel is drawn from representatives of local media, non-governmental organisations, professional associations, international donors and media development
implementers. The panel scores each aspect individually, then meets to agree on combined assessment. This is then averaged with an assessment from the IREX staff to obtain the final rating.

Format of results: 

0-4 range (0 = worst and 4 = best)

Unsustainable, Anti-Free Press (0–1): Country does not meet or only minimally meets objectives. Government and laws actively hinder free media development, professionalism is low, and media-industry activity is minimal.
Unsustainable Mixed System (1–2): Country minimally meets objectives, with segments of the legal system and government opposed to a free media system. Evident progress in free-press advocacy, increased professionalism, and new media businesses may be too recent to judge sustainability.
Near Sustainability (2–3): Country has progressed in meeting multiple objectives, with legal norms, professionalism, and the business environment supportive of independent media. Advances have survived changes in government and have been codified in law and practice. However, more time may be needed to ensure that change is enduring and that increased professionalism and the media business environment are sustainable.
Sustainable (3–4): Country has media that are considered generally professional, free, and sustainable, or to be approaching these objectives. Systems supporting independent media have survived multiple governments, economic fluctuations, and changes in public opinion or social conventions.


Valid Use: 

The index and the country reports which accompany it can provide an interesting insight into the functioning of the free media in a broader sense than some other similar indices.

Invalid Use: 

This should not be used alone as a measure of free speech. The freedoms measured cover only the media, not individuals. Moreover the scoring method implies that a high score in one area offsets freedoms denied in another area.


The views of IREX staff have a high weight in the index. Users therefore assume that IREX representatives are at least as knowledgeable as the panel of country experts. The norms used would imply that a sustainable media requires a functioning market economy. Advertising revenue and private sector paper producers are key factors, for example.

Example results: 

The table below shows all results of a selected country from the 2012 index.