World opinion is divided on the importance of press freedom, suggests a BBC World Service poll of 11,344 people across 14 countries.While an average of 56% across all countries think that freedom of the press is very important to ensure a free society, 40% believe that social harmony and peace are more important, even if it means controlling what is reported for the greater good.
Fifty six per cent of people in the 14 countries polled think the press and media in their country is free to report the news accurately without bias. Only 19% say there is little or no media freedom in their country.
Private and publicly funded news organisations receive similar ratings from the public when it comes to reporting the news honestly and accurately. Thirty nine per cent of people across all countries say publicly funded news agencies are doing a good job, while 43% say the same for private news organisations.
However, in some countries the poll shows concern over the ownership of private media. Strong majorities in Brazil (80%), Mexico (76%), USA (74%), and Great Britain (71%) believe that the concentration of media ownership in fewer hands is a concern because owners’ political views emerge in reporting.
Of the countries where press freedom is most highly valued, Western developed countries are more critical of how honestly and accurately the news is reported, including Germany (28% average rating for good performance of public and private media), Great Britain (29%), and the USA (29%) whereas Venezuela (44%), South Africa (49%), Nigeria (58%), and Kenya (61%) rate the media performance more positively.
In countries where social stability is more highly valued, those surveyed in India (61% good performance) and the UAE (52%) believe the news is being reported honestly, contrasting with a more negative view of press performance in Russia (27%), Mexico (28%), Brazil (31%) and Singapore (37%). (See diagram below).
The survey was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firms GlobeScan and Synovate. Fieldwork took place between 1 October and 21 November 2007.
GlobeScan President Doug Miller comments: “While people generally support a free media, the Western view of the necessity of a free press to ensure a fair society is not universally shared across all regions of the world.”
The poll was commissioned as part of a season of programmes to celebrate BBC World Service’s 75th Anniversary.
A total of 11,344 citizens in Brazil, Egypt, Germany, Great Britain, India, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Russia, Singapore, South Africa, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and Venezuela were interviewed face-to-face or by telephone between 1 October and 21 November 2007.
Polling was conducted for the BBC World Service by the international polling firms GlobeScan and Synovate and their research partners in each country. In 6 of the 14 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/-2.5 to 4.4 percent.