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International Communication Gazette
http://gaz.sagepub.com Freedom of the Press: A World System Perspective
Shelton A. Gunaratne International Communication Gazette 2002; 64; 343 DOI: 10.1177/174804850206400403 The online version of this article can be found at: http://gaz.sagepub.com/cgi/content/abstract/64/4/343

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GAZETTE: THE INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL FOR COMMUNICATION STUDIES COPYRIGHT © 2002 SAGE PUBLICATIONS LONDON, THOUSAND OAKS & NEW DELHI, VOL 64(4): 343–369 [0016-5492(200208)64:4;343–369;025948]

FREEDOM OF THE PRESS
A World System Perspective

Shelton A. Gunaratne
Abstract / The world system theory can provide a refreshingly different perspective of globalpress freedom. The starting point of assessing press freedom should be the world system, not the ‘atomistic’ nation-state, because one cannot understand the part without knowing the whole, which is more than the sum of the parts. This article proposes the application of a revised formulation of the world system theory – which presumes a capitalist world-economy dominated by three competingcenter-clusters each associated with a dependent hinterland of peripheral economic clusters – to examine global press freedom. It proposes a three-tiered typology for measuring press freedom at the world system, nation-state and individual levels. It suggests that press freedom indices should factor in the power of the center-clusters, themselves led by a hegemon cluster, to flood the hinterlandstechnologically with a barrage of information-communication. Keywords / freedom of communication outlets / press freedom / right to communicate / world system

The structural-functionalist modernization paradigm, better known as the dominant paradigm, identified media participation, with accompanying press freedom, as another facet of development (Burrowes, 1996). Wallerstein (1974) turned the tablesaround when he challenged the basic presumption of the dominant paradigm: that nation-states changed in parallel lines from tradition to modernity. Applying the method of historical social science, Wallerstein theorized that the world system as a whole reflected a given stage of development, and that the part, i.e. the nation-state, was not independent of the whole. Yet, researchers have continued tomeasure press freedom using criteria solely internal to a state. (The dominant paradigm is associated with Lerner, Rostow and Schramm. As I have pointed out elsewhere [Gunaratne, 2001b: 157], ‘Lerner’s semitheory postulated that urbanization and literacy, followed by media participation and political participation [voting], produced the critical mass of “modernity” that propelled countries to thetakeoff point of selfsustaining economic and social growth’. Thus, the old paradigm establishes a connection between mass media and voting – a connection relevant to the elaboration of this article.) In another paper (Gunaratne, 2001a), I have proposed a world system model that provides researchers a new framework for mapping press freedom in the world. The proposed model requires linking the notionof press freedom
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GAZETTE VOL. 64 NO. 4

to global forces, such as the ability of center-clusters to flood the peripheryclusters with a barrage of information-communication notwithstanding the domestic restrictions within a state. So conceived, the measurement of press freedom should include...
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