A free press is not a luxury. It is at the core of equitable development.
The media can expose corruption. They can keep a check on public policy by throwing a spotlight on government action. They let people voice diverse opinions on governance and reform, and help build public consensus to bring about change. Such media help markets work better. They can facilitate trade, transmitting ideas and innovation across boundaries.
The media are also important for human development, bringing health and education information to remote villages in countries from Uganda to Nicaragua. But as experience has shown, the independence of the media can be fragile and easily compromised. It is clear that to support development, media need the right environment-in terms of freedoms, capacities, and checks and balances.
The World Development Report 2002, “Building Institutions for Markets (rep. no. 22825),” devoted a chapter to the role of the media in development. This volume is an extension of that work. It discusses how media affects development outcomes under different circumstances and presents evidence on what policy environment is needed to enable the media to support economic and political markets and to provide a voice for the disenfranchised. To this end, it draws together the views of academics as well as perspectives from those on the front line-journalists themselves.