The United States freedom of the press’ ranking in the world has dropped dramatically compared to the year before, according to a report issued by Reporters Without Borders.
According to the document, the sharp drop is due to the increase in the cracking down of whistleblowers.
Report Without Borders’ annual Freedom Index ranked the United States at number 46 in the world, down 13 spots from 2013.
Included in the reasons for the dramatic drop, the report cites the trial and conviction of Private Bradley Manning, the pursuit of National Security Agency (NSA) leaker Edward Snowden, and the Justice Department’s seizure of Associated Press (AP) phone records in order to find the source of the leaks, among other cases.
Part of the report states:
“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.”
It goes on to name the United States directly indicating it had one of the most significant declines of the year, because of the concerted efforts to hunt down whisteblowers, which it confuses with its national security needs and is a detriment to the right to inform and be informed.
Out of the 180 countries reviewed by the non-profit, independent organization, Finland topped the list at number one, followed by the Netherlands, and Norway in third place. The same as last year.
On the other side of the spectrum we find Turkmenistan, North Korea, and Eritrea, three countries in which freedom of information is non-existent.
Report Without Borders ranks Syria — and its raging civil war — in the 177th spot stating, adding that the conflict in the Middle Eastern country has also had dramatic repercussions throughout the region, “reinforcing media polarization in Lebanon (106th, -4), encouraging the Jordanian authorities to tighten their grip, and accelerating the spiral of violence in Iraq (153rd, -2), where tension between Shiites and Sunnis is growing.”
As to the United States, the report sees the pursuit of Manning and Snowden as a warning to those thinking of assisting in the release of information that would benefit the public.
“United States 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.”
In general, the report identifies conflict as a big source in the decline in ranking for many countries, as it usually translates into repression of information or violence against journalists.
“The whistleblower is clearly the enemy in the United States,” Delphine Halgand, who heads the RSF outpost in Washington, told Yahoo News. “Eight whistle-blowers have been charged under the Obama administration, the highest number of any administration, of all other administrations combined.”
Some of the countries that do better than the United States when it comes to freedom of the press include, Australia, Poland, Slovakia, Samoa, Botswana, France, El Salvador, Jamaica, Great Britain, and Papua New Guinea.