Prosecuting whistleblowers for talking to the press, prosecuting journalist and snooping phone records of other journalist has sent the United States – where press freedom is constitutionally enshrined – plummeting in an annual ranking for press freedom.
The international group Reporters Without Borders issued its Index of Press Freedom ranking the U.S. 46, falling 13 places from last year.
In this image made from video released by WikiLeaks on Friday, Oct. 11, 2013, former National Security Agency systems analyst Edward Snowden speaks during a presentation ceremony for the Sam Adams Award in Moscow, Russia. Should Snowden ever return to the U.S., he would face criminal charges for leaking information about NSA surveillance programs. But legal experts say a trial could expose more classified information as his lawyers try to build a case in an open court that the operations he exposed were illegal. (AP Photo) AP Photo
Meanwhile, Afghanistan and Iraq – two countries liberated by U.S. military efforts – don't even crack the top 100.
“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,” the international journalists report states.
“U.S. 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,” the report continues. “It served as a reminder of the urgent need for a 'shield law' to protect the confidentiality of journalists’ sources at the federal level.”
Naming two other cases, the report states, “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 clos
e ties to the federal government.”
Not too surprising, the current host country of the Olympics – Russia – ranks 148 on the list.
“Russia might have been lower in the index had it not been for the stubbornness and resistance shown by its civil society,” the report states. “But the authorities keep on intensifying the crackdown begun when Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin in 2012 and are exporting their model throughout the former Soviet Union. From Ukraine (127th, unchanged) and Azerbaijan (160th, -3) to Central Asia, Russia’s repressive legislation and communications surveillance methods are happily copied. Moscow also uses UN bodies and regional alliances such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in its efforts to undermine international standards on freedom of information.”
Afghanistan ranks 128 in press freedom while Iraq ranks 153. Elsewhere in the Middle East, after so much upheaval, Egypt ranks 159. Syria – currently experiencing a civil war and massive bloodshed – ranks 177. The most solid democracy in the Middle East, Israel, ranks 96, as a strong national security state. The report ranks its nemesis Palestine at 138 for press freedom.
As for other leading democracies; the world's largest democracy India, ranks only at 140 for press freedom. America's closest European ally Great Britain ranks 33, mainly for national security reasons. Other key European allies doing better are France, ranking 39, and Germany with a better showing at 14.
Eastern European countries that were once under Soviet domination do fairly well, as the Czech Republic is ranked 13 and Poland is ranked 19.
The top three countries are Finland, Netherlands and Norway. The worst for press freedom, ranking 178, 179 and 180 respectively are Turkmenistan, DPRK and Eritrea.
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