The press freedom group Reporters Without Borders has issued the 2016 edition of its annual World Press Freedom Index. Let's just say that the news is not good. Dictators, party hacks, caudillos, kings, petty bureaucrats, spy agencies, and even the Obama administration just want reporters to shut up.
Republican presidential candidate frontrunner Donald Trump wants to "open up our libel laws so when they [reporters] write purposely negative and horrible and false articles, we can sue them and win lots of money." Shades of the infamous Alien and Sedition Acts of 1798 which, as USHistory.org explains, "prohibited public opposition to the government. Fines and imprisonment could be used against those who 'write, print, utter, or publish . . . any false, scandalous and malicious writing' against the government."
Of course, the kinds of government pressures and harassment faced by journalists in the U.S. and most other industrialized countries is small potatoes when compared to the deadly dangers faced by reporters in China, the Arab World, much of Africa, and in many Latin American countries.
Reporters Without Borders notes that its 2016 edition of the World Press Freedom Index…
…shows that there has been a deep and disturbing decline in respect for media freedom at both the global and regional levels. Ever since the 2013 index, Reporters Without Borders has been calculating indicators of the overall level of media freedom violations in each of the world's regions and worldwide. The higher the figure, the worse the situation. The global indicator has gone from 3719 points last year to 3857 points this year, a 3.71% deterioration. The decline since 2013 is 13.6%.
The lower the score, the greater the press freedom found in a country. For example, Finland has the lowest score at 8.59. In the latest report, the U.S., with a score of 22.46, stands at 41st out of 180 countries ranked. With regard to the U.S., Reporters Without Borders notes:
Freedom ends where national security begins
US media freedom, enshrined in the First Amendment to the 1787 constitution, has encountered a major obstacle – the government's war on whistleblowers who leak information about its surveillance activities, spying and foreign operations, especially those linked to counter-terrorism. Furthermore, US journalists are still not protected by a federal "shield law" guaranteeing their right not to reveal their sources and other confidential work-related information.
While any score below 25 is considered satisfactory, our country could do a lot better.
*Where is Greenland?