The validity of global press ratings: Freedom house and reporters sans frontières, 2002–2014

Justin David Martin*, Dalia Abbas, Ralph J. Martins

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

14 Scopus citations


This study examines year-by-year correlations between Freedom House and Reporters Sans Frontières’ (RSF) press freedom scores for countries over a 13-year period (2002–2014). The goal of the study is to test the hypothesis that, further into the age of digital disclosure, as press abuses and harassment of journalists are more widely reported, press freedom ranking systems are gradually becoming more precise and, therefore, correlations between the two indices will strengthen over time. To further assess concurrent validity of the indices, correlations between both indices and scores on the United Nations Human Development Index are also provided. The study also examines changes in the indices’ rankings of countries over time within six world regions: the Middle East and North Africa, the Americas, Western Europe, Eastern Europe/Central Asia, Sub-Saharan Africa, and Asia. In so doing, this study adds a degree of understanding to the validity of two press freedom indices that are routinely cited in journalistic reportage and trade journals, as well as many scholarly publications. Results suggest that the two organizations’ scoring of press freedom has become significantly more correlated in the years 2002–2014, and the primary cause of the increased agreement is that RSF’s ratings became substantially more aligned with Freedom House’s scores during this period. Both indices’ ratings are significantly correlated with countries’ United Nations Human Development Index scores.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)93-108
Number of pages16
JournalJournalism Practice
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2016


  • Freedom house
  • Press freedom ratings
  • Rankings
  • Reporters sans frontières
  • Reporters without borders
  • Validity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication


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