Free Press

Global Press Freedom at 12-Year Low

The real fake news is calling the free press an enemy of the people.

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PressHandcuffedYiannos1Dreamstime
Yiannos1/Dreamstime

"A few days ago I called the fake news the enemy of the people, and they are—they are the enemy of the people," declared President Donald Trump at the annual Conservative Political Action Conference in February. Fake news like negative polls, inaugural crowds, and three to five million illegal voters? Now the Russian Foreign Ministry has gotten into the business of branding news stories as fake. The Chinese government has joined in denouncing as "fake news" reports that it tortured a human rights activist. "Trump's attacks on the media will offer a good excuse for Chinese officials to step up their criticism of Western democracy and press freedom," said Qiao Mu, a journalism professor at Beijing Foreign Studies University in The New York Times. "China can turn to Trump's attacks to say Western democracy is hypocrisy."

The new report from Freedom House, Freedom of the Press 2016, finds that only 13 percent of the world's people live in countries where there is freedom of the press. In 2003, 20 percent did. That means that 87 percent of the world's people now have to endure fake news peddled and enforced by government thugs daily. There's worse news. "Press freedom declined to its lowest point in 12 years in 2015, as political, criminal, and terrorist forces sought to co-opt or silence the media in their broader struggle for power," notes the report. Freedom House director of research Jennifer Dunham writes:

The share of the world's population that enjoys a Free press stood at just 13 percent, meaning fewer than one in seven people live in countries where coverage of political news is robust, the safety of journalists is guaranteed, state intrusion in media affairs is minimal, and the press is not subject to onerous legal or economic pressures.

Freedom House began issuing its annual world press freedom reports in 2002 measured on a 100-point scale that evaluates the legal, political, and economic environment of each country with respect to media freedom. In 2004, the United States scored 13; in the 2016 report that score had risen to 21 points. In 2004, western democracies such as France, the United Kingdom, and Hungary scored 19, 19, and 20 respectively. In 2016, those ratings deteriorated to 28, 25, and 40 respectively. Even China's scores rose from 80 in 2004 to 87 in 2016; while Russia's rose from 67 to 83 during that period.

FreedomPressMap2016
Freedom House

More hopefully, Dunham observes:

The varied threats to press freedom around the world are making it harder for media workers to do their jobs, and the public is increasingly deprived of unbiased information and in-depth reporting. However, journalists and bloggers have shown resilience. Often at great risk to their lives, they strive to transmit information to their communities and the outside world, and circulate views that contradict those promoted by governments or extremist groups.

As most of the world's people know, the real fake news is calling the free press an enemy of the people.

NEXT: The great anti-Semitism panic of 2017

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  1. If the media had never pimped the ‘Fake News’ story to placate their sadz about Clinton losing, they would not have offered tyrants an excuse to censor them. They are their own worst enemy.

    1. Funny how Ron never bothers to mention fake news like George Bush going AWOL from the National Guard, Richard Jewell being the Olympic bomber, the Duke Lacross team committing a gang rape, a fraternity on the campus of UVA doing the same, the Bengazi attack being the result of rioting over a youtube video, and about a thousand other fake news stories the major media has peddled over the years.

      1. Funny how you’ve never denied being in charge of Buchenwald, either.

        The Bush story was largely Dan Rather, the UVA hoax was largely one Rolling Stone reporter, but Jewell really was thought to be the bomber by the FBI, the prosecutor really was going after the Duke lacrosse team, Hillary really was pushing the Youtube video narrative – what is the press supposed to report? How is it “fake news” to accurately report somebody else’s fake narrative?

        Is the press biased? Sure, and once upon a time each outlet had its own bias and then it morphed into an almost-strictly leftist bias and now its morphing back into individually biased media. The news of the day used to be yesterday’s news, then with CNN and cable news it became today’s news and now with the internet it’s the last five minutes’ news. There’s little time for accuracy and fact-checking and source-checking for hidden agendas when you’re rushing to meet an hourly deadline – journalism as a whole has become TMZ on crack and nobody gives a crap what you’re pushing because it’ll all be forgotten by next week.

        Journalism’s dead, John. You can stand there pissing on its grave or you can admit it was really kind of an abortion to start with and you were an idiot to ever believe the bullshit about how they were pure-hearted defenders of truth, justice and the American way of life, but the freedom to sell stories is still an important freedom.

        1. I never believed any of that stuff. And yes it is dead. It’s dead primarily because Craigslist killed newspaper’s main source of income. When that happened, the means by which journalists were trained ended. Journalism used to be a trade that you learned by starting at the bottom writing obituaries or something and worked your way up. That doesn’t happen anymore. There is no one to train you. So journalists now come up through the ranks by talking out of their asses about shit they don’t know on the internet. They never learn how to write or report. They just learn how and are rewarded for talking shit.

          The problem with that business model is, as this board and others prove, anyone can talk shit. And many people can talk shit better than journalists. So news organizations don’t’ offer any value. There is value to reporting. Not anyone has the time or the inclination or ability to go down to city hall or Congress and find out what the hell is going on. But everyone can comment on what is going on. News organizations no longer have the ability to report and instead comment and in doing so engage in an activity to which they bring no added value.

          1. J: By “anyone can talk shit” do you mean you?

            1. Yes. And if it relates to the law or something I have specialized knowledge in, I can talk it a lot better than your typical journalist. I, of course, am not alone in that. There is little value in that since there are lots of lawyers and people who can do that.

              The value is in reporting. And that is what the media has lost. And given the economic realities of the news business, I don’t see how that changes.

    2. And they wouldn’t have handed Trump another convenient phrase to mock them with.

  2. The varied threats to press freedom around the world are making it harder for media workers to do their jobs, and the public is increasingly deprived of unbiased information and in-depth reporting.

    The American public has been deprived of unbiased information and in-depth reporting for years or maybe decades. And the government had nothing to do with it. A free press is a good thing, but only as good as the press that such freedom gives you, which in the US at least is pretty bad.

    I don’t see how the American major media’s performance and honesty would have been any worse if it had been state-run during the 8 years of the Obama Administration. If anything, it might have been better by virtue of it at least being honest about being a state-run media.

    1. I don’t see how the American major media’s performance and honesty would have been any worse if it had been state-run during the 8 years of the Obama Administration. If anything, it might have been better by virtue of it at least being honest about being a state-run media.

      ^ This.

  3. Really Ron? When the free press uses it’s power to propaganda and to increase their own power, are they our friend or just another central planner?

    1. Just because the media is an oligopoly that uses its power to among other things ensure that Libertarian ideas or really any idea outside of acceptable center-left conventional wisdom is never given a fair hearing, doesn’t mean they are not our friends.

      /sarc

  4. The press is the enemy of the people. Not the free press, but the MSM / Blue Press

    Even though he’s a leftist, he still has a good point on this one

    youtube.com/watch?v=V1ulkykn7jc

  5. When elements of the press engages in slander against youtubers and other online media, when elements of the press think they deserve special protections and only THEY have freedom of the press (as opposed to bloggers and whatnot), and when they attack alternative forms of media (their competition), then YES, they are the fucking enemy of the people!

  6. I would have more faith in the integrity of the fourth estate had they not spent the last eight years covering for the Obama Administrations repeated lies and failures. It wasn’t until alternative media sources broke actual news did we find out about things like what REALLY happened at Benghazi or Obama repeatedly spying on news reporters or the IRS targeting conservative groups.

    Obama was ten times the tinpot dictator in his ACTUAL ACTIONS then whatever Trump has tweeted about. And yet they haven’t learned a goddamn thing and they STILL protect Obama as if they owe him for some reason.

    I lost all respect for the media when they are incapable of admitting that they are biased.

    1. T: You do know that Reason reporters are members of the 4th estate?

      1. I include Reason in this statement, yes. I appreciate the writers here when they fully admit their bias but not all of them do, and many expect me to believe that they are just “reporting the news” when there clearly is a bias behind the reporting.

        One of the single most depressing things about the direction of journalism in the last few years is that we have writers for Reason who I thought were biased towards liberty and free markets…….actively promoting non-libertarian political solutions such as Carbon emissions trading and other such tilting at windmill fantasies.

        I should’ve listened to Hunter Thompson the first time -“There is no such thing as Objective Journalism. The phrase itself is a pompous contradiction in terms.” -HST

  7. As most of the world’s people know, the real fake news is calling the free press an enemy of the people.

    You’re playing bait-and-switch, Ron.

    A lying press is the enemy of the people. A free press is absolutely necessary to protect a free society from the lying press.

    Pointing out that a lying press is the enemy of the people is NOT the same thing as being against Freedom of the Press.

    Please show us that you understand this distinction.

    1. S=C: “For here we are not afraid to follow truth wherever it may lead, nor to tolerate any error so long as reason is left free to combat it.” Thomas Jefferson, 1820.

      1. A noble sentiment.

        To pose my question more directly:

        Who has suggested that a free press is the enemy of the people? As opposed to people who have suggested that a lying press is the enemy of the people?

        1. S=C: Just how do you tell in advance which ones are the liars unless they get to speak and make their cases to the public?

          1. You’re still pretending that someone is making a case against the free press. Who is doing this?

            You can’t tell who’s going to lie. That’s why you have to have a free press, understanding that a significant sector of that free press is going to lie.

            Again, my point is that acknowledging that much of the mainstream press lies habitually is not the same thing as being against Freedom of the Press.

            Allow me to turn your question around on you:

            How are we to respond to ‘fake news’ when attempts to point to dishonesty in the news are met with protestation that any attempt to do so is somehow a move against “freedom of the press?”

            1. S=C: With regard to Trump, I don’t grant you the premise of your question. In my judgement, Trump is not attempting to point to dishonesty in the news; he is trying to distract and cover up his own pervasive dishonesty. Among other techniques, he does this by deploying – in the immortal words of Kellyanne Conway – “alternate facts.”

              I have been skeptical of Trump for a long time. See my November 2015 blog post, “Donald Trump and the Big Lie Strategem.”

              1. In my judgement, Trump is not attempting to point to dishonesty in the news; he is trying to distract and cover up his own pervasive dishonesty

                Porque no los dos?

                Trump certainly isn’t being altruistic in his criticisms of the press. But he is specifically picking on outlets that have been particularly hostile towards him, to the point of blatant dishonesty.

                Is he opportunistically leveraging a perceived weakness in his critics that he uses to deflect attention from his own very great shortcomings? Absolutely yes. Clearly and undeniably.

                Is that weakness there for the exploiting because of the staggering dishonesty of those same critics? Absolutely yes. Clearly and undeniably.

                I’m still unclear on who it is who is suggesting that a free press is the enemy of the people?

                And thus I return to my point that it is also “problematic” for, say, WaPo or CNN to pass along bald-faced lies and then scream about assaulting press freedom when they’re called on it. Not even with the suggestion that they face some consequence – just for being called on it.

                1. And just as a side note – props, Ron, for even talking to me. I mean no acrimony in my disagreement – you’re good peeps in my book. As a couple folks said below, your willingness to engage is noble and appreciated.

        2. What do you do when the free press also lies?

            1. ^ This.

              See, Ron – I don’t think we disagree at all. I just think you’ve indulged in some hyperbolic phrasing here, and IMHO dialing it back a notch will benefit everyone involved.

    2. S=C: Just curious: don’t you that that a free press is absolutely necessary to protect a free society from a lying president too?

      1. don’t you that that a free press is absolutely necessary to protect a free society from a lying president too?

        Did anything I said indicate that I don’t? Calling out the president on his lies is not the same thing as calling him “anti-press freedom” for pointing out dishonesty in the press.

        1. And this is not a point of pedantry – when the press tells bald-faced lies and everyone knows it, and then compares the president to Mao or Stalin (implicitly or not) when he points out that everyone knows the press is telling bald-faced lies, it’s not the president who loses credibility in the eyes of the public.

          I understand that Hitler liked the phrase “lying press” and that it scares people when someone like Trump uses it. What’s the proper stance to counter such a character?

          Honesty.

          reason is still mostly OK, but why the rest of the press can’t wrap their heads around this is totally beyond me.

        2. S=C: I guess we have to disagree. So when the press calls Trump out for his numerous and enthusiastic lies, he turns around and calls the media that do that liars and enemies of the people. Seems problematic to me.

          1. Ron –

            You can’t seriously be suggesting that everything the mainstream press has said about Trump is true.

            If we had honest media consistently calling out Trump on his, as you say, numerous and enthusiastic lies, in ways that didn’t enable him to turn around and call them liars right back, the 4th estate would be functioning in a healthy manner.

            I’m curious, though – what is it, exactly, that you feel we disagree about?

            Do you feel that Trump is wrong to say that the media has told lies about him? That he shouldn’t be allowed to say that? Or is there some indication that he’s about to change the law to curtail press freedom in some way?

            I understand he’s made some grumblings about strengthening libel laws, but do we have specifics about this “assault on Freedom of the Press?”

            1. S=C: Of course, Trump is allowed to say whatever he wants; including lies about being lied about. Lying by government officials – much less a sitting president – who wield actual power is far more problematic than ideologically driven bad reporting, a.k.a., lies.

              1. Serious question Ron, do you think the press has lied about Trump at all?

                1. T: First, let’s define lie (v): 5. to speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive; 6. to express what is false; convey a false impression

                  There may be some members of the MSM that who knowingly spoke falsely about Trump, but in my judgement most of them did not in their reporting on the campaign. Far more often they were blinkered by ideology and class so that they actually ended up sometimes “expressing and conveying a false impression about Trump.”

                  OTOH, the evidence is piling up that Trump is perfectly happy to “speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive.”

                  Get beyond tribalism: Just because the MSM calls Trump a liar, doesn’t mean that it isn’t so.

                  1. Ron, the “press” published a widely discredited memo that talked about Trump hiring prostitutes to pee on him. That sounds like those members of the press were perfectly happy to “speak falsely or utter untruth knowingly, as with intent to deceive.”

              2. Lying by government officials – much less a sitting president – who wield actual power is far more problematic than ideologically driven bad reporting, a.k.a., lies.

                Absolutely agree.

                The one should be grounds for removal from office, and perhaps even criminal penalties. The other should be grounds for persistent and unrelenting mockery (and a libel suit if the lie results in actual damage).

  8. Soave, if you are going to cite a ratings scale in your articles, how about you better explain how the rating system works before throwing numbers at the reader. I had to read through that section a couple of times before I understood what a good and bad score was from the context.

    The media are an interest group in themselves and when they are not ideologically diverse for the most part and promoting narratives that support that ideology, then they are going to be less effective at being watchdogs on the whole.

    1. Soave? Shots fired, I repeat, shots fired.

    2. Sorry Bailey

  9. This is just like the Holocaust.

  10. Did you mean 8 years and 6 weeks low?

  11. Thank god for Breitbart. They fuck fake news in the ass.

    1. D: Breitbart uses a dildo, a.k.a., a fake phallus.

  12. Looking at the green Europe, I guess that hate press isn’t considered free press.

    1. It says “free press” not “free speech.” The press is only in favor of one of those two things.

  13. My only problem with the concept of “free press” is that it’s unnecessarily limiting: I give two shits whether “the press” is free. The press absolute should have free speech, same as everyone else.

    Funny how they usually don’t see things that way: when a Canadian comedian gets fined five figures for a joke, or a Scottish youtuber gets arrested for teaching his girlfriend’s dog the Hitler salute (another joke), mums the word. But when it’s their ox being gored…

    1. Exactly. The media is generally nasty and stupid. It always has been. There is nothing noble or admirable about it or the profession. The measure of freedom is freedom of speech not “press” however you want to define it.

      1. J: Ad hominem much? You do know that slinging a slur is not an argument?

    2. VM: “No human right is more important than free speech. Without it no other rights can be asserted and defended.” – For more details, see my article, The Human Right to Offend.

      With respect, your examples illustrate the problem – governments are outlawing all kinds of speech which, by the way, includes the press’ freedom to report on such suppression.

      1. Or to gleefully cheer such suppression on as in the two cases I highlighted.

        The graph above has Canada ahead of the US in “free press.” The country that fined Mike Ward 50 grand for a joke he made. Apparently since he’s not “the press”, that doesn’t count.

        I realize you feel that way Ron and it’s not a criticism of you. My problem is it seems the majority of your fellow journalists do not. And so their very selective outrage doesn’t move me much.

      2. Yes, that is a problem. But it’s asinine to pretend Trump criticizing the press is part of the problem. Trump speaking against the establishment press is nothing more than free speech, too.

    3. Which is why I always argue that “free press” must be understood to mean any means of mass communication, no matter who is using it or for what purpose. No censorship, period.

  14. I’ve had my problems with Reason but I do appreciate Ron engaging with the commentariat. A sense of community is one of the things that seperate Reason from other outlets.

    1. Agreed. Him and Shack Attack do this often enough.

    2. Yes, Ron is not afraid. I think this is the wrong hill to die on, but I like him.

      1. BMgr: By citing what I regard as Trump’s intemperate remark, I have evidently distracted the readership from the FAR MORE IMPORTANT POINT that press freedom around the world is in decline. This is a reporting error on my part.

        BTW, Trump is nevertheless a dangerous liar.

        1. Hey, Ron – if we didn’t sit around all day picking you guys’ nits, what we do all day?

        2. Trump is nevertheless a dangerous liar.

          Most of the “libertarians” here seem to be OK with that. Because Hillary, Obama, CNN, WaPo, Lena Dunham, Fauxcahontas, hipsters, global “warming”…

  15. The press deserves no more credibility or respect than any other mouthpiece of the state.

  16. We all know that the only honest people left are blog commentators.

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