Freedom of the press and perceptions about government corruption

AuthorPatrick Flavin,Fielding Montgomery
Publication Date01 September 2020
Date01 September 2020
International Political Science Review
2020, Vol. 41(4) 554 –566
© The Author(s) 2019
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DOI: 10.1177/0192512119858469
Freedom of the press and
perceptions about government
Patrick Flavin
Baylor University, USA
Fielding Montgomery
University of Maryland, USA
The media can play an important role in the relationship between citizens and their government by acting
as a watchdog and providing timely information about malfeasance and corruption. We examine whether
citizens’ perceptions of government corruption are closer to country experts’ assessments in countries
where there are higher levels of press freedom. Using data on citizens’ perceptions of government corruption
and country expert evaluations of levels of political corruption for over 100 countries, we present evidence
that the relationship between expert measures of corruption and citizens’ perceptions is heightened as the
level of press freedom increases across our sample. These findings suggest that a free press can play an
important role in bringing corruption to light, educating citizens, and potentially allowing them to better hold
their elected officials accountable.
Government corruption, media, political knowledge, press freedom, transparency
To hold their elected officials accountable, citizens require relevant and transparent information
about the ongoing functioning of their government. One of the most important avenues by which
citizens can acquire that information is through the ‘watchdog role’ of a free press (Norris,
2011). When the media are independent and largely free from government interference, it is
likely that they will more effectively fulfill their watchdog role of bringing government malfea-
sance to light and educating citizens about the performance of their elected officials. In contrast,
in countries where the media are tightly controlled by the government or act as an extension of
Corresponding author:
Patrick Flavin, Department of Political Science, Baylor University, One Bear Place #97276, Waco, TX 76798, USA.
858469IPS0010.1177/0192512119858469International Political Science ReviewFlavin and Montgomery

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