The organization Reporters Without Borders has released its 2014 World Press Freedom Index, its rankings of press freedoms around the globe and the US has plummeted 13 spots and is now at #46 out of 180 nations, sandwiched between Romania at #45 and just above Haiti at #47. Here is what the report says about why the US declined.
Countries that pride themselves on being democracies and respecting the rule of law have not set an example, far from it. Freedom of information is too often sacrificed to an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs, marking a disturbing retreat from democratic practices. Investigative journalism often suffers as a result.
This has been the case in the United States (46th), which fell 13 places, one of the most significant declines, amid increased efforts to track down whistleblowers and the sources of leaks. The trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning and the pursuit of NSA analyst Edward Snowden were warnings to all those thinking of assisting in the disclosure of sensitive information that would clearly be in the public interest.
US journalists were stunned by the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press phone records without warning in order to identify the source of a CIA leak. It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a “shield law” to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources at the federal level. The revival of the legislative process is little consolation for James Risen of The New York Times, who is subject to a court order to testify against a former CIA employee accused of leaking classified information. And less still for Barrett Brown, a young freelance journalist facing 105 years in prison in connection with the posting of information that hackers obtained from Statfor, a private intelligence company with close ties to the federal government.
I have been meaning to write about the US government’s appalling persecution of Barrett Brown that has not received nearly the amount of media attention it deserves and will do so in the near future.
Sri Lanka used to have a pretty good and relatively free press but is now a country where the government routinely harasses and threatens and assaults journalists and is at #165. I wonder how many years it will be before the US sinks even below Sri Lanka.