Democracy is a concept which lies behind most international comparisons of media systems but is seldom thoroughly examined. The BRICS countries demonstrate different approaches to understanding and implementing democracy, ranging from the traditional multi-party electoral democracies of Brazil and India to China governed by a single party, with Russia and South Africa with a strong leading party positioning themselves between the two extremes. Similarly, the concept of freedom is a construct of historical and cultural values.
This paper starts with the Democracy Index of The Economist Intelligence Unit as an example of the mainstream western ways of scaling countries. Also, the popular Freedom House and Reporters Without Borders press freedom rankings are reminded as ways to perpetuate western paradigms.
A critical overview of these conventional models of democracy and the scholarly discussion around them is presented, with contemporary challenges stemming from contradictions between globalization and regional entities such as BRICS, between weakening of traditional political parties and rising populism, and ultimately between different civilizations. All this, it can be argued, is undermining American-style democracy and suggesting new ways of understanding how to govern society, with the role of media clearly articulated.