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Press Freedom Index


Reporters Without Borders

Stated Purpose: 

Provide a snapshot of the state of press freedoms in a 12 month period.

Area of Governance: 
Human Rights
Funding Source: 

Reporters without borders is an association which raises funds through a variety of activities. No external funding is provided for the press freedom index.

Current usage: 

The index aims to measure the state of press freedom in the world reflecting the degree of freedom journalists and news organisations enjoy in each country, and the efforts made by the state to respect and ensure respect for this freedom. The index is used as an advocacy tool to raise awareness of the limits on press freedoms around the world, and their impact on democracy, freedom of information and also the lives of journalists.

Type of data used: 

Questionnaire survey of media actors and human rights activists within the selected countries.


Country Coverage: 179 worldwide (growing in number each year)
Year Coverage:nt 2002 - present (conducted annually) 

Contact details: 

Reporters sans frontieres
5, rue Geoffroy-Marie
75009 Paris - France
Tel. 33 1 44 83 84 84
Fax. 33 1 45 23 11 51


Each country covered by the index has a ranking and a score which together sum up the state of press freedom there. A country can change rank from year to year even if its score stays the same, and vice-versa. It is based solely on events taking place in the examined year, e.g events occurring in the time period of 1 December 2010 to 30 November 2011. It does not look at human rights violations in general, just press freedom violations.

Reporters Without Borders has compiled a questionnaire with 44 criteria for assessing the state of press freedom in each country. It includes different kinds of violations directly affecting journalists (such as murders, imprisonment, physical attacks and threats) and news media (censorship, confiscation of issues, searches and harassment). It registers the degree of impunity enjoyed by those responsible for such violations and tries to capture the legal situation affecting the news media (such as penalties for press offenses, the existence of a state monopoly in certain areas and the existence of a regulatory body) and the behaviour of the authorities towards the state-owned news media and the foreign press. It also takes account of the main obstacles to the free flow of information on the Internet.

The questionnaire is sent to Reporters Without Borders’ partner organizations (18 freedom of expression groups in all five continents), to its network of 150 correspondents around the world, and to journalists,  researchers, jurists and human rights activists. A scale devised by the organization was then used to give a country score to each questionnaire.

The countries ranked are those for which they received completed questionnaires from a number of independent sources. Others were not included because of a lack of credible data. Where countries tied, they are listed in alphabetical order.

Format of results: 

Unlike indexes from previous years, the 2011–2012 index allowed for negative scores and has a wider overall spread of scores (-10 to 142 compared to 0 to 115.5 in previous years).

Valid Use: 

Note that the organisation also produces the Press Freedom Barometer, which details other areas of interest concerning press freedoms. It provides a running total of Journalists killed, Media assistants killed, Journalists imprisoned, Media assistants imprisoned and Cyber-dissidents imprisoned.

Invalid Use: 

The index is compiled specifically to defend press freedoms. No assessment is made, or implied within the rankings concerning the quality of press.


The index assumes that state owned media limit press freedoms. This assumption is common to most indices of press freedoms. This particular index asks about both
state ownership and state monopolisation of media. Monopolisation is clearly a stronger deterrent than mere ownership.

Example results: 

Press Freedom Index 2012