J. D. Heyes
US citizens should realize that countries like El Salvador, Botswanna, Niger, and South Africa have a more free press. Access to information is heavily distorted and controlled in the US.
Press freedom took a major hit last year, according to the 2015 World Press Freedom Index, a measurement of the state of journalism put together annually by the group Reporters Without Borders.
Because of a rise in warfare, growing threats from non-state actors, worsening economies and violence during demonstrations, freedom in media is retreating on all of the world’s continents, reports Zero Hedge. In fact, there was a major decline in press freedom between 2013 and 2014; two-thirds of the 180 countries surveyed for the latest press freedom index lost important ground from the previous year.
The financial analysis site further noted:
The annual global indicator, which measures the overall level of violations of freedom of information in 180 countries year by year, has risen to 3,719, an 8 percent increase over 2014 and almost 10 percent compared with 2013.
Surprisingly, that includes the United States. Indeed, for a country whose founders made freedom of the press a guaranteed right and even wrote it into the nation’s founding governing document, the United States is, in many respects, no longer a bastion of press freedom.
“War on information”
Mike Krieger at Liberty Blitzkrieg cited the Reporters Without Borders report, in which the U.S. fell from 46th place a year earlier to 49th place last year:
In the United States, 2014 was marked by judicial harassment of New York Times investigative reporter James Risen in connection with the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer charged under the Espionage Act with giving him classified information. US journalists are still not protected by a federal shield law that would guarantee their right not to name their sources or reveal other confidential information about their work. Meanwhile, at least 15 journalists were arbitrarily arrested during clashes between police and demonstrators protesting against black teenager Michael Brown’s fatal shooting by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.
The U.S. fell on the index to just below Burkina Faso, Niger and Malta on the scale.
The Associated Press, also reporting on the index, noted that the top-ranked region for press freedom was Western Europe, but it, too, lost ground; in fact, it lost the most ground. Three Nordic countries were atop the list; Italy slipped somewhat — due to Mafia and other threats on journalists — as did Iceland, as the relationship between the media and the country’s political class worsened.
In addition, Italy witnessed “an increasing number of abusive defamation proceedings against journalists,” Lucie Morillon, a research director at Reporters Without Borders, told the AP. Italy plunged 24 spots in the classification to 73rd.
A “war on information” being waged against U.S. journalists by the Obama Administration was blamed for the drop in American press freedom.
Mongolia advanced the most
Press freedom in the “workers’ paradise” of Russia also dropped again as Prime Minister Vladimir Putin continued to consolidate power in his office. Russia fell two places to 152 following the passage of “draconian laws” meant to limit freedom of information, according to Reporters Without Borders.
Though near the bottom third, Egypt rose one place to 158, though the government there currently detains 15 journalists “on arbitrary grounds,” said the group. They include a pair of Al Jazeera employees held by Cairo since December 2013.
Libya fell as well, slipping four places to 154th. According to Reporters Without Borders, reporting on militia activities in that war-torn North African nation is akin to “an act of heroism.”
New access-to-information legislation in Mongolia helped that nation rise 34 spots — the largest single advance — to 54th place, while similar reforms in the former Soviet client state of Georgia led to a 15-place rise to 69th place.
Meanwhile, the group said, China, Iran and North Korea all remained among the 10 lowest-ranked countries.