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How to use the report

The Global Expression Report (XpA)  is a metric which tracks freedom of expression across the world.  It not only measures the safety of journalists and the laws governing how we communicate, but provides a full picture of how free people are to express themselves – to discuss, speak, disagree, and inform themselves.

The report combines detailed narrative, looking at the major events and trends of 2018, with detailed data analysis.

Covering  161 countries, the report uses 39 indicators o create an overall freedom of expression score between 0 (negative, restricted) and 1 (positive, free).  The indicators were also used to create five scores relating to specific themes which correspond to the ways in which we experience the right to freedom of expression:

  • Civic Space: the space to participate in public debate and political action;
  • Digital: the ability to express oneself via the internet;
  • Media: the enabling environment for outlets and publications;
  • Protection: the safety and security of those who express themselves; and
  • Transparency: people’s ability to gain information and force accountability from powerholders.

As with last years report the data has been drawn from the worlds largest and most authoritative social science database – the V-Dem data set – a set of over 350 indicators of democracy, with further measures from the Digital Society Project.  For more detail on V-Dem and the methodology of the report, see the Methodology page 

About the XpA scores

Each country has an overall score, scores for each of the above themes, and a ‘ranking’ – where it sits in relation to other countries.

The average scores are provided for each region and throughout the text we point out those countries which are ‘outliers’ for those regions, being more than one standard deviation from the mean average for the region.

We have looked at the overall and thematic scores, as well as their changes over time across four time periods: the last year, the last three years, the last five years, and the last ten years. This has allowed us to identify key shifts in freedom of expression over time as well as how slowly or quickly these changes have taken place.

For each timeframe, we created five ‘Decliners’ and five ‘Advancers’ – countries showing meaningful and holistic improvement or deterioration, defined by strong score changes across at least three themes.

To compare the movement in different regions, we worked out average scores for each region, both overall (freedom of expression)  and by theme, and tracked them over time.  This enabled us to see which countries are ‘outliers’ – significantly above or below their neighbours – for their region.  Our outliers are at least one standard deviation from the mean average for their region.1[1]

The data can be interrogated more fully in the methodology section, and can be explored visually on the Global Expression  Report page


[1] Standard deviation is a measure of how a group is spread out from the mean. In a normal distribution, 68% of the data values will fall within one standard deviation of the mean value. Countries that fell outside of that spread (+/-) are identified as significantly different from other countries in that region. For more, see Annex: Methodology (p.x).

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