Journalism, democracy & governance

Research and reports about the effectiveness of donor and foundation-supported journalism can support democracy & governance.

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V-Dem Institute

Democratic gains over the past three decades have been "wiped out", warns the V-Dem Institute's latest global report on the state of democracy. The spread of disinformation as well as attacks on freedom of expression and independent media have contributed to alarming rates of democratic backsliding across the globe.

Advances in global levels of democracy made over the last 35 years have been wiped out. 72% of the world’s population – 5.7 billion people – live in autocracies by 2022.

The worst affected area is freedom of expression, which includes media freedom. It was improving in 14 countries while declining in only seven by 2012. Ten years later, 35 countries limit freedom of expression substantially and statistically significant more than ten years ago, while only eleven have expanded it.

Konrad Adenauer Stiftung

This study analyses the media landscape in India, Cambodia, Nigeria and Senegal. The main objective of the study is to identify and analyse narratives that legitimise autocratic systems and suppress freedom of the press as a part of these antidemocratic trends. We identify practical ways to counter disinformation and support the voices and media outlets which engage – often under considerable risks - in promoting the development and defence of a pluralistic media landscape. Ultimately, each country chapter and the overall conclusion of the study provide recommendations on how the EU can respond to those trends.

Center for International Media Assistance - TARIK JUSIC & HEATHER GILLBERDS

"For years, democracy around the world has been in retreat. Dictators have made every effort to reassert their hold on power, with independent media often a first line of attack. Despite this troubling trend, movements for democracy are constantly emerging, ushering in new windows of opportunity for democratic progress. Reforming the media sector is central to ensuring the success of a democratization effort. Yet, the path to progress is not straightforward—reform efforts can easily stall, and media advocates face strong headwinds as they contend with entrenched political and business interests vying for control of the information space.

By examining past and current political openings—Burma, Ethiopia, Sudan, Tunisia, and Ukraine—this report explores how media sector advocates advance a progressive reform vision during democratic transitions and how the international community can best support them. The case studies demonstrate the importance of contextually tailored support for media, and highlight the key role of civil society as a driving force for a media reform agenda"

In addition to the main synthesis report, five case studies were produced on countries where media sector reform efforts have been undertaken.

World Bank Group - PIPPA NORRIS

"Do the news media especially if they are free, plural and independent of government control have an impact on the quality of governance? To many, the answer to that question is not only obvious, it is blindingly so. The news media have contributed to the improvement of governance in several countries, especially through their ability to expose corrupt deeds and speak truth to power. The problem, however, is that as the governance reform agenda evolves in the field of international development, the role of the news media is still uncertain. Opportunities to strengthen the news media will always depend on the situation in each country, and will always depend on the interplay of forces within each country. In other words, the political economic realities will always determine what can be achieved. What that means is that those who want to improve media systems in their own countries must learn to build effective coalitions. That is where work is really needed. Nonetheless, it is possible to do two things. First, it is possible to bring together how the news media can contribute to good governance outcomes. Second, it is possible to draw the necessary policy implications. This book will contribute to a greater awareness of the potential contributions of independent news media to governance reform efforts around the world."

Center for International Media Assistance - PAUL ROTHMAN

"The global effort to promote open and transparent government creates new opportunities to put media development on the political agenda of countries around the world. This report looks in particular at the structures of the Open Government Partnership (OGP), which in its 2016 Paris Declaration characterized the media as a “crucial force for transparency and accountability.” In an era of democratic backsliding and declining public trust in institutions of all kinds, the need for pluralistic, independent, and high-quality news media has never been more important. Yet even the most democratically minded countries in the world are having trouble creating the laws, policies, and practices to ensure a healthy media system. Can the Open Government Partnership’s multi-stakeholder forums be used to stimulate solutions to some of the most intractable challenges facing independent media?"


This study outlines the case for, and the practical feasibility of establishing, a new International Fund for Public Interest Media (IFPIM). Such a Fund would focus mainly on resource-poor settings across the world where the economic and political challenges confronting independent media have become overwhelming. The study is principally addressed to international development agencies, technology companies, philanthropic entities and others with an interest in supporting democracy and development in such settings. It argues that an IFPIM would provide an effective, legitimate and efficient way of increasing institutional support to independent media, which today constitutes just over 0.2% of official development assistance.


This study explores the effects of aid on the level of democracy in recipient countries and under what conditions it might work better.


  • A systematic review of the literature

  • A new quantitative comparative analysis using multiple advanced econometric methods.

Main findings:

  1. Both international and Swedish democracy aid have a small but positive effect on democracy in partner countries. There is no evidence of aid having a negative impact on democracy.

  2. The relatively small effects reflect the likely limited reach of democracy aid in authoritarian states and developing democracies.

  3. The effects on democracy are stronger for aid that specifically targets the core building blocks of democracy, such as civil society, free and fair elections, media freedom and human rights.

  4. Democracy aid is more effective when it comes to supporting democratization rather than at preventing democratic backsliding.

  5. The study shows that Swedish democracy aid to the core aspects of democracy, allocated directly to various countries, has declined in recent years.

Center for International Media Assistance - CRAIG MATASICK

Through a series of five illustrative case studies, the report demonstrates how deliberative democracy practices can be employed in both media development and democracy assistance efforts, particularly in the Global South. Such initiatives produce recommendations that take into account a plurality of voices while building trust between citizens and decision-makers by demonstrating to participants that their issues will be heard and addressed. Ultimately, this process can enable media development funders and practitioners to identify priorities and design locally relevant projects that have a higher likelihood for long-term impact.

Flamingo, Reuters Institute, University of Oxford

This report responds to the imperative of how "fewer young people are using traditional sources of news such as television, radio and print, and how they are getting more of their news from social media and other aggregators."


This report "provides indications of the media habits of the population of Myanmar as well as people's understanding of news and information flows." Some of the findings that the report showcases are that there is a "widespread preference towards local media" because it is perceived as presenting more relevant information, as well as television being the preferred medium for news consumption although social media is quickly catching up.


"The ability of citizens to demand accountability and more open government is fundamental to good governance. There is growing recognition of the need for new approaches to the ways in which donors support accountability, but no broad agreement on what changed practice looks like. This publication aims to provide more clarity on the emerging practice. Based on four country studies Mali, Mozambique, Peru and Uganda, a survey of donor innovations and cutting-edge analysis in this field, and the findings of a series of special high-level international dialogues on how to best support accountability support to parliaments, political parties, elections and the media."

Center for International Media Assistance - KARIN DEUTSCH KARLEKAR & LEE B. BECKER

It is generally accepted that media freedom is beneficial to democratic and economic development, but the exact nature of this relationship and the direction of causality between press freedom and general freedoms is under-researched. Rigorous and in-depth examinations of the relationship between press freedom and general democracy using the available global datasets have been limited. This study investigates the nature of that relationship through detailed statistical and qualitative analysis.


This report summarises how experimental design has been used to assess the effectiveness of governance interventions and to understand the effects of the media on political opinion and behaviour. It provides an analysis of the benefits and drawbacks of experimental approaches and also highlights how field experiments can challenge the assumptions made by media support organisations about the role of the media in different countries.


For academic research into journalism and democracy go to

Journalism, democracy & governance


This resource page is a work in progress. Please get in touch to let us know what is missing using this form.

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