The Global Media Freedom Dataset (GMFD) sorts the media environments of countries around the world, in the period 1948-2014, into three basic categories:

Code 1 – is assigned to countries considered Free, where criticism of government and government officials is a common and normal part of the political dialogue in the mediated public sphere.

Code 2 – marks countries considered Imperfectly free, where social, legal, or economic costs related to the criticism of government or government officials limits public criticism, but investigative journalism and criticism of major policy failings can and does occur.

Code 3 – is assigned to countries which are Not free, where it is not possible to safely criticize government or government officials

Additional codes are adopted to mark countries with no media (code=0) or missing data (code=8).

Added value

This historical series has the added value of compiling data with a consistent methodology on a long time span (1948-2014). It is therefore suitable to be adopted for analysis which go beyond the current context to see long term correlations between the media environment and others dimension of democratic institutions in a given country/region.


The GMFD focuses on media environment, defined as the combination of factors in which media function in a given country, as elements which affects the capability of journalists to criticize powerful elites, the very basis for them to be able to keep those in power accountable. The three codes assigned to countries reflect the definition of media freedom as the ability to safely criticize the government.

With difference to other rankings, GMFD applies the same methodology across the entire period in which it applies (1948-2014). Another significant difference is that is provides a categorical coding rather than an interval scale.

The GMFD is compiled by professors Jenifer Whitten-Woodring (University of Massachusetts Lowell) and Douglas A. Van Belle. For an in-depth introduction to the methodology and added value of this historical series, see Whitten-Woodring, Jenifer and Douglas A. Van Belle, The Correlates of Media Freedom: An Introduction of the Global Media Freedom Dataset Political Science Research and Methods, December 2015.

Tags: Media freedom Safety of journalists
Publication Date: 30/12/2014
Source: Professors Jenifer Whitten-Woodring (University of Massachusetts Lowell) and Douglas A. Van Belle
Dataset format: csv
Accessibility: free