Montreal, May 3, 2019 – As we celebrate World Press Freedom Day, a publication launched today by the MEI shows that this freedom is closely linked with the degree of economic freedom that prevails in a country.
Last year, 54 journalists were killed on the job. The latest reports on freedom of the press are worrisome. This freedom is in decline in a number of countries. The data show that a factor that is too often ignored has a positive impact on freedom of the press: economic freedom.
“Even though economic freedom does not by itself guarantee press freedom, it can be seen that countries with a large degree of economic freedom (freedom to start a business, respect for private property, openness to international trade, etc.) are generally the ones with the most press freedom,” points out Kevin Brookes, Associate Researcher at the MEI and co-author of the publication.
“There are obviously exceptions. Certain economically free countries lack a free press, like Singapore or Bahrain, for instance. But overall, greater economic freedom is generally associated with greater press freedom,” adds Patrick Déry, Senior Public Policy Analyst at the MEI and co-author of the study.
The data examined show, for example, that the more that countries adopt public policies leaving the market free to operate, the more the press is likely to be independent. Among the 20 countries with the most press freedom, most are European countries: Norway, the Netherlands, and Sweden make the podium, while Canada is in 13th place among the 162 countries surveyed.
Conversely, of the 20 countries where the press is the least free, 17 are either in the 3rd or in the last quartile for economic freedom. Some countries in South America like Bolivia, Venezuela, or Argentina, which have adopted interventionist economic policies, have thus seen the independence of the press reduced, or even endangered.
“Because it guarantees the separation of economic and political powers, economic freedom is one of the ingredients of press freedom. And while it is not sufficient by itself to ensure press freedom, economic freedom remains a necessary condition for a market of ideas to prosper in which everyone has freedom of expression, itself a prerequisite for the exercise of numerous other rights and freedoms,” explains Mr. Brookes.
“International institutions and non-governmental organizations that deploy immense efforts and resources to guarantee press freedom should take note of this. So, too, should industrialized countries, whose populations have benefited enormously from the liberalization of markets, yet where its benefits, widely demonstrated, are often called into question,” concludes Patrick Déry.
The Viewpoint entitled “For a Freer Press, Add Economic Freedom” was prepared by Patrick Déry, Senior Public Policy Analyst at the MEI, and Kevin Brookes, Associate Researcher at the MEI. This publication is available on our website.
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