Freedom House’s Methodology: Strengths and Weaknesses

Freedom in the World, the annual report on political rights and civil liberties in 195 countries around the globe relies on a methodology that has been in use for over forty years. However, the duration of its practice does not mean it is undoubtedly the best way to measure freedom in a given country. The methodology, as with most other systems that break down subjective topics like freedom, has strengths which make the system reliable as well as weaknesses that must keep the reader wary.

Raymond Gastil developed the methodology in 1972 with a goal to “assess the real-world rights and freedoms enjoyed by individuals.” Analysts include a “group of regional experts from the academic, media, and human rights communities” who gather information from “news articles, academic analyses, reports from non-governmental organizations, and individual professional contacts.” The breadth of the analysts’ expertise as well as the variety of their sources show that the methodology can procure a great deal of information.

However, the methodology cannot be proven to be absolutely correct. The extensive expertise of the analyst does not matter if the reports coming in from the news articles, reports, and individual contacts are untrue. The methodology relies heavily on information that can easily come from biased reports. The current civil war in Ukraine offers supportive evidence that readers cannot trust the official reports that the countries publish (Annis 2015). An August report from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights contains a heavy bias towards the government in Kyiv. In the report, the “UN body provides no information of how its casualty numbers are arrived at” (Annis 2015). Reports coming in from German media outlets and hospital records indicate the figures could be “ten times those of the UN and Kyiv officials” (Annis 2015). Such a large disparity shows that reports coming in from abroad can contain bias and should not be taken for granted. Despite the large scope of information obtained by Freedom House, there are many more cases similar to the one in Ukraine that discourage readers from confidently trusting the Freedom in the World report.

Annis, Roger. “Another Flawed and Biased Report on Ukraine by the UN Human Rights Office.” 10 Sept. 2015. Web.

http://www.counterpunch.org/2015/09/10/another-flawed-and-biased-report-on-ukraine-by-the-un-human-rights-office/

https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world-2014/methodology#.VLVQ2Ka1Rl8

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6 thoughts on “Freedom House’s Methodology: Strengths and Weaknesses

  1. I too offer wonder how accurate the information I am receiving is. How do we know the implications of current events if we don’t know the realities of them.

  2. Given that the information is gathered from “news articles, academic analyses, reports from non-governmental organizations, and individual professional contacts,” creates skepticism– countries elite and academics are the ones who have access to information and the internet, which creates the allusion that their perspective is that of the whole countries. Do these sources really make it into the trenches? To the war zones? If the 1% of the United Sates were the most heard abroad– what would that mean our country would look like?

  3. I go to an Independent day school with a large population of Chinese students. The access to free flowing information is extremely limited, and they have to go to extreme lengths in order to access free internet. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in a country where you don’t actually know what’s occurring. For instance, many students I have had classes with have not heard of Tiananmen square, or have heard stories of it only being mythological . Without knowing our past, how do we accurately understand the present and our future?

  4. Interesting article that really provides insight to this sort of methodology and its outcomes. Really makes me think twice about what sources I’m reading.

  5. Although some bias and inaccuracy of facts regarding news coming out of countries, especially countries listed as not free by the Freedom Report, are an inevitable occurrence these discrepancies have to be taken seriously when reading the Freedom in the World report. This could cause you to look at countries where this news is coming out of and discredit the report’s information regarding the freedom of that country, but instead I believe it allows you to get an even deeper understanding of the freedom in a country. If the news coming out of a country is inaccurate then the country’s government may be responsible leading you to the conclusion that the country may be less free than you had previously thought. This article definitely brought up many points to be considered when reading the Freedom in the World report and any other source for that matter.

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