1. General measures of press freedom
2. Freedom of the internet
3. Public opinion on press freedom
4. Freedom of journalists
There are different ways of estimating the degree of press freedom in a country. You can either look at specific restrictions – such as internet filtering, censorship laws, restrictions on freedom of speech or the safety and security of journalists – or you can try to aggregate those specific measures into an overal press freedom index. The latter is done by, for example, Reporters Without Borders.
Here’s their 2007 Press Freedom Ranking:
Freedom House also produce a press freedom ranking:
Freedom House estimates that 1 billion of the worlds population of 6 billion lives in a country with a free press, and another 2.5 billion have a partly free press.
Lots of authoritarian regimes impose restrictions on the types of information their citizens can access or publish on the internet. Some countries systematically limit the available websites, and others only do so when their citizens use the internet to organize protest actions (as was recently the case in Iran, Tunisia and Egypt).
China is often criticized for its large-scale and systematic filtering (dubbed the Great Firewall of China), but the phenomenon is relatively widespread.
Here are some maps showing the extent of internet censorship:
(source, where you can also find more detailed information)
And this is the ranking of internet freedom according to Reporters Without Borders:
Another way to measure freedom of the press is to ask what people think about it – how much freedom they see, and how much they want.
There’s an interesting set of opinion polls here, measuring public support for free speech and other freedoms in the U.S.
Yet another way to measure freedom of the press is to look at the numbers of journalists in prison. 2013 was the second worst year on record for jailed journalists. The number of journalists in prison globally decreased from a year earlier – 211 vs 232 – but remains close to historical highs. Turkey, Iran, and China accounted for more than half of all journalists imprisoned around the world in 2013. For the second consecutive year, Turkey was the world’s leading jailer of journalists (source).
(source, where you can also find an interactive version of the map with precise country data)
Those numbers seem to be a bit low, in my opinion. Probably they only include the officially recognized cases and governments that incarcerate journalists aren’t eager to admit that they do.
A map about the numbers of journalists killed – another measure of press freedom – is here. In 2011, 66 journalists got killed for doing their job. Between 1992 and 2011, 1242 journalist were murdered. The top 5 deadliest countries to be a journalist in 2011 were Pakistan, Mexico, the Philippines, Brazil and Russia. In 2011, 1,959 journalists were physically attacked or threatened. 71 were kidnapped.