Expert Commentary

Beyond borders: Is media freedom contagious?

2010 study published in Kyklos: International Review of Social Sciences on the geographic spillover of increased media freedom.

Since the end of the Cold War in 1989, the rights of domestic news organizations have expanded in many countries, though there have been some notable counterexamples. Scholars have linked such “media freedom” to wider issues of economic performance and effectiveness of governance, and to respect for human rights.

A 2010 study by published in Kyklos: International Review of Social Sciences, “Beyond Borders: Is Media Freedom Contagious?” applied spatial econometric techniques to a sample of 102 countries to measure the level of geographic spillovers of media freedom, from one neighboring country to another. The authors surveyed the period 1994 to 2003.

The study’s findings include:

  • Controlling for baseline press freedom and alternative influences, countries “catch” between 18% and 24% of their media freedom from neighboring countries.
  • This roughly 20% spillover effect was largely unchanged when nations of varying size and level of democratization were compared.
  • The data also suggest that the impact works in the opposite direction: if one country has a relatively controlled media, neighboring countries are more likely to have a more restricted media environment.

The researchers, based at West Virginia University, the University of Wisconsin-LaCrosse and the World Bank Institute, state that the study demonstrates that “a country resistant to change can be influenced by reforms enacted in geographically neighboring countries.”

Tags: news, human rights