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No free press without economic freedom!

Montreal, May 3, 2018 – On the occasion of World Press Freedom Day, a publication launched today by the MEI shows that this freedom is intimately connected to the degree of economic freedom that prevails in a country.

Last year, 65 journalists were killed while plying their trade, and press freedom is losing ground in many countries, according to Reporters without Borders. Countries with a high degree of economic freedom (the freedom to start a business, respect for property rights, openness to international trade, etc.) are in general those with the most press freedom.

“Even though economic freedom does not by itself guarantee more press freedom, it is nonetheless a necessary condition for its appearance,” points out Patrick Déry, Public Policy Analyst at the MEI and co-author of the publication. “Exceptions like Singapore and Hong Kong show that a high level of economic freedom can be accompanied by a low level of press freedom. However, the opposite is not true. There has never been a democratic society that respects individual rights without having a minimum of economic freedom.”

The data collected in the context of the study reveal that in the countries of Western Europe and North America, for example, where economic freedom is high, there is also substantial press freedom. “A little more than two thirds of the most economically free countries are considered to have a high degree of press freedom. For the least free countries, this proportion is zero!” says Kevin Brookes, Public Policy Analyst at the MEI and co-author of the publication.

Thus, unsurprisingly, countries with little economic freedom, like Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina, and Algeria, also have less press freedom. “By increasingly controlling and regulating their economies, the governments of these countries have substantially reduced press freedom,” notes Kevin Brookes.

“In a real market economy, an avid defender of socialism, for instance, will always have the possibility of finding donors, investors, and clients to finance the dissemination of his or her opinions. However, in an economy controlled by the government, diverging opinions will have greater difficulty being heard because of bureaucratic obstacles, the difficulty of finding financing, and even outright censorship,” observes Patrick Déry.

“In countries with a high degree of economic freedom, fewer journalists are attacked, fewer laws and regulations are imposed on the media, and there is less political pressure to control content. Economic freedom therefore constitutes one promising avenue for reforms, because it favours prosperity at the same time as non-economic factors—above all, freedom of the press,” concludes Michel Kelly-Gagnon, President and CEO of the MEI.

The Economic Note entitled “Economic Freedom Promotes Freedom of the Press,” was prepared by Patrick Déry and Kevin Brookes, Public Policy Analysts at the MEI. This publication is available on our website.

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The Montreal Economic Institute is an independent, non-partisan, not-for-profit research and educational organization. Through its studies and its conferences, the MEI stimulates debate on public policies in Quebec and across Canada by proposing wealth-creating reforms based on market mechanisms.

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Interview requests: Pascale Déry, Vice President, Communications and Development, MEI / Tel.: 514-273-0969 ext. 2233 / Cell.: 514-502-6757 / Email: pdery@iedm.org

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