UNESCO, an important global champion of freedom of expression, says that it is helpful to think of media development in the following three terms:
“Freedom is primarily analysed as a matter of the legal and statutory environment in which the media and journalism operate and which shapes public information flows.” To assess media freedom, you would look at whether freedom of expression is guaranteed in the law and whether this is translated into practice; whether media are censored or banned/blocked; and so on.
“Pluralism is conceptualized as a matter of economic ownership and control, as well as the diversity of journalistic content.” Plural media would mean having a wide range of public, private and community media, and a diversity of news content.
“Independence means autonomy for professional journalism.” This enables journalists to carry out their jobs with integrity and guided by social responsibility, instead of obeying their employers’ commercial or political interests.
It is possible for a country’s press to be “free”, and yet fail to play its proper role because it is not plural and not independent. This is why UNESCO believes it is best to consider these factors separately.
World Trends report
In 2014, for the first time, UNESCO published a global report on trends in Freedom of Expression and Media Development.
Read the Executive Summary, including the sections explaining Freedom, Pluralism and Independence (pages 7-10).
(To go deeper, you’ll find the full text here.)