World opinion is divided on the importance of having a free press, according to a poll conducted for the BBC World Service. Of those interviewed, 56% thought that freedom of the press was very important to ensure a free society. But 40% said it was more important to maintain social harmony and peace, even if it meant curbing the press's freedom to report news truthfully.
Pollsters interviewed 11,344 people in 14 countries for the survey. In most of the 14 countries surveyed, press freedom (including broadcasting) was considered more important than social stability.
The strongest endorsement came from North America and Western Europe, where up to 70% put freedom first, followed by
People were also asked to rate how free the press and broadcasters were in their country to report the news truthfully and without undue bias. Perceptions varied widely among developing countries, ranging from 81% giving a high rating in
The survey also identified concern in some countries over the concentration of private media ownership in the hands of fewer large companies.
The poll was conducted by the international research firms GlobeScan and Synovate, as part of a season of programmes marking the 75th anniversary of BBC World Service.