Saturday, June 22, 2013

Media Freedom Hard to Capture

by Carl Bialik

Wall Street Journal

June 21, 2013

Turkey is the biggest jailer of journalists world-wide, according to several media advocacy groups. But when it comes to overall restricting of media freedom, the country's government may be far from the worst offender.

Many reports on the recent unrest in Turkey have cited the country's top ranking in the global jailed-journalists table. That is based on research from nonprofit organizations Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists. Both groups use the figure, for Turkey and other countries high in the ranking, as lobbying tools for greater journalistic freedom.

However, Turkey ranks far from the bottom in broader indexes of media freedom, such as those produced by Reporters Without Borders and another research-and-advocacy group, Freedom House. Of the 179 countries ranked by Reporters Without Borders in 2013 for press freedom, 25 placed lower than Turkey. And 72 of the 197 countries ranked by Freedom House were deemed less free for media than Turkey.

A country that has many journalists in jail is a country with many journalists who were producing coverage the government didn't like. "There are cases such as North Korea, which doesn't appear on the CPJ list but has by most measures the most oppressive press-freedom environment in the world," said Jennifer Dunham, senior research analyst at Freedom House in New York. "There are simply no journalists to put in prison."