Freedom House survey finds Internet freer than traditional media
(Freedom House/IFEX) - The following is a Freedom House press release:
GLOBAL SURVEY FINDS INTERNET FREER THAN TRADITIONAL MEDIA
Online Dilemma: Repressive Governments Unable to Fully Control Web
NEW YORK, April 30, 2001 -- In a major report released today, Freedom House finds that Internet freedom exceeds levels of press freedom in most countries, including some closed societies governed by censorious regimes.
Of 131 countries eligible for the study, 58 (44 percent), are considered to have the "Least Restrictive" access to the Internet. Fifty-five states (42 percent) are considered Moderately Restrictive, and 18 (14 percent) are rated Most Restrictive. Because adequate data on Internet practices were not available, 55 countries were not included in the study. Countries were rated based on their levels of Internet penetration, the regulatory environment, and cost of Internet access.
The report is included in Freedom House's annual Survey of Press Freedom, a country-by-country comparative analysis measuring levels of freedom of expression. Comparing the data between the Internet study and the results of the larger survey, it is clear that Internet freedoms outpace press freedoms.
Out of 187 countries covered in the main survey, 72 (38.5 percent, representing 21% of the world's population) are considered Free, 53 countries (28.3 percent, or 43% of the global population) are rated Partly Free; 62 countries (33.2 percent, or 36% of the world's population) are rated Not Free.
Many repressive governments -- among them Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Zimbabwe -- place fewer restrictions on Internet access than they do on print and broadcast media.
"The Internet's relative openness in some closed societies reflects the dilemma posed by the opportunities on the web for economic development, international trade, cultural advances," said the Survey's author and Freedom House Senior Scholar, Leonard Sussman. China and several Middle Eastern countries face this dilemma.
Among the study's principal findings:
- While a strong correlation exists between a free press and open Internet access, some of the most repressive and closed societies restrict content on the Internet "least" or "moderately."
- Some major democracies (Australia, UK, US) restrict freedom on the Internet, ostensibly to maintain state secrets or bar pornography.
- Countries with Internet access considered Most Restrictive generally allow only state-run Internet service providers to operate.
The entire Survey of Press Freedom, containing country-by-country reports and an interactive press freedom map, are available online at www.freedomhouse.org/pfs2001/pfs2001.pdf
Freedom House, a non-profit, non-partisan organization, monitors political rights and civil liberties worldwide. In addition to the Survey of Press Freedom, Freedom House publishes Freedom in the World, an annual global survey measuring freedom in every country, and Nations in Transit, a comparative survey of the post-Communist states of Eastern and Central Europe and the former Soviet Union.