What is Reporters Without Borders?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Reporters Without Borders is an international organization which was founded with the goal of promoting freedom of the press. The organization facilitates a range of activities to promote press freedoms while also assisting journalists, and in the 21st century, it expanded its efforts into the online world, helping to educate and protect bloggers and other people who post information online. This organization is supported through funding from a variety of agencies worldwide, along with donations from supporters and proceeds from the sales of books and other materials.

Reporters Without Borders was founded in 1985 in Montpellier, France, by Robert Menard, Roby Brauman, and Jean-Claude Guillebaud.
Reporters Without Borders was founded in 1985 in Montpellier, France, by Robert Menard, Roby Brauman, and Jean-Claude Guillebaud.

Reporters Without Borders was founded in 1985 in Montpellier, France, by Robert Menard, Roby Brauman, and Jean-Claude Guillebaud. The French name of the organization is Reporters sans frontières (RSF). The name of this organization may remind you of another prominent non-governmental organization (NGO), Doctors Without Borders. The resemblance is intentional; one of the founders actually worked with Doctors Without Borders before assisting with the founding of Reporters Without Borders.

This organization works in a number of ways to protect press freedoms and to assist journalists. Reporters Without Borders helps to defend accused and imprisoned journalists, publicizing their cases and contributing to their legal funds while also applying political pressure to agitate for their release. The organization also offers financial aid to struggling journalists and organizations which promote press freedoms, and it tries to actively fight censorship in a variety of ways around the world.

RSF also works to make journalism safer. It maintains a running list of reporters who are killed on the job, and it fights for safe access to breaking news for journalists. Reporters Without Borders also helps to outfit reporters with things like flak jackets for war zones, and it applies pressure to governments in an attempt to ensure that journalists will not be injured or threatened in the line of duty. RSF also makes cases of murder and intimidation very public, attracting public scrutiny.

Reporters Without Borders puts out a number of publications, including an annual index of press freedoms which is based on extensive research around the world. It also publishes guides to safe reporting around the world, along with a Handbook for Bloggers and Cyber Dissidents which contains helpful information about working in the online environment.

This press NGO is not without controversy. Some people have pointed out that some of the organization's sources of funding may compromise its integrity. Others have been critical about the position of the organization on Cuba, which it claims is a major violator of press freedoms. Some critics have also pointed out that Reporters Without Borders is not always impartial in the way it handles news and information, which is a very valid concern.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments


@Vincenzo -- the United States doesn't come in well on that list, having ranked 32nd in the world last year. That can be viewed one of two ways. It's either a sad commentary on a country that has freedom of the press guaranteed in it's constitution or raises the suspicion that Reporters Without Borders is somehow biased on how it compiles its list. Figuring out which answer is the correct one would be a good research project for someone...


Reporters Without Borders is perhaps best known for its annual Press Freedom Index which ranks countries by how "free" countries are when it comes to the media. It seems the poll is largely driven by how governments work to promote or suppress a free press.

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