Measurement Issues and the Relationship Between Media Freedom and Corruption

TitleMeasurement Issues and the Relationship Between Media Freedom and Corruption
Publication TypeConference Paper
Author(s)Becker, L. B., T. K. Naab, C. English, and T. Vlad
Affiliation (1st Author)Grady College of Journalism and Mass Communication, University of Georgia, Athens, GA 30602 USA
Section or WGJournalism Research and Education Section
DateWed 26 June
Slot CodeJRE W4a
Slot Code (Keyword)JRE W4a
Time of Session16:00-17:30
Session TitleJournalism Motivations, Practices and Indicators Theme IV: Methods for Quantifying Professional Journalism
Submission ID4857

Advocates for media freedom have consistently argued that corruption goes down when journalists operating in a free media environment are able to expose the excesses of governmental leaders. Indeed an evolving body of research finds evidence of a negative relationship between media freedom and level of corruption of a country even when controlling for several other political, social and economic characteristics of the country These findings are encouraging since corruption, that is, the use of entrusted power for private gain, is believed to pose a serious challenge to development. Corruption undermines good governance by flouting formal processes, reducing accountability, compromising rule of law and encouraging the inefficient provision of services. One limitation to the finding, however, is that the validity of the measures of corruption that have been used in the research has been challenged. In fact, measurement of corruption is a complicated undertaking.Corruption generally is indexed by illegal, hidden activities that are hard to record. At present, several organizations measure corruption. Two distinct types of measures generally are used. One is perceptual. It relies either on the assessments by experts or by the public. Among these measures is the Corruption Perception Index of Transparency International, which in 2011 included expert assessments by country analysts and business leaders with a broad coverage of 183 countries. This is the measure that has been used in most of the research on the relationship between media freedom and corruption. The second perceptual measure comes from the general public. The Gallup World Poll includes public assessments of corruption in 142 countries in 2010-2012. The second type of indicator is experiential. Experiential indicators directly consider a person’s behavior of giving or accepting bribes. An example is the Global Corruption Barometer of Transparency International, which in 2011 measured laymen being asked for bribes and their payment of bribes across 100 countries. This paper focuses on construct validation of these various measures by examining the relationship between media freedom and the various corruption measures. At the same time, the research will compare multiple measures of media freedom by Gallup, Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders to determine the validity of those public and expert assessment measures as well. Data from 2010, 2011 and 2012 from the Gallup World Poll, analyzed separately, show that public perceptions of media freedom are only modestly negatively correlated with public perceptions of both business and government corruption at the aggregate level. The expert measures of media freedom by Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders show almost no relationship with public perceptions of corruption as measured by Gallup, in contrast with the earlier findings using the Corruption Perception Index and the experiential measures of the Global Corruption Barometer of Transparency International. The paper explores these inconsistencies and discusses the implications for measurement of corruption and for the argument that media freedom is an antidote to corruption. It concludes that the diverse measures reflect partially different constructs which jointly add to a better assessment of the level of corruption worldwide and to a greater understanding of the relations between corruption and media freedom.

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