Press freedom in the United States has suffered “one of the most significant declines” in the last year after sacrificing information to national security, with the NSA surveillance scandal topping the list of wrongdoing.
That’s according to The World Press Freedom Index for 2014 from Reporters Without Borders (RWB), which put the US in 46th place out of 180 countries, a 13-place drop from last year.
This time American misdemeanors were in the report’s chapter on “Information sacrificed to national security and surveillance,” which says: “Countries that pride themselves on being democracies and respecting the rule of law” too often sacrifice the freedom of speech to “an overly broad and abusive interpretation of national security needs.”
“Investigative journalism often suffers as a result” of a “disturbing retreat from democratic practices,” the RWB report said.
The RWB recalled all recent major assaults on the freedom of press in the US, be it the conviction of US Army whistleblower Bradley (Chelsea) Manning or the manhunt for former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, whose revelations about pervasive worldwide surveillance conducted by the US intelligence’s made WikiLeaks publications of Manning’s files pale by comparison.
Another notorious attack on journalism mentioned by the RWB was the seizure of “thousands and thousands” of Associated Press phone calls by the US Justice Department, which was searching for a leak in the CIA.
The RWB recalled scandalous cases of freelance digital journalist Barrett Brown, who now faces 105 years in prison for sharing a link to stolen classified data, and New York Times reporter James Risen, who also faces a term in jail if he does not testify against CIA whistleblower Jeffrey Sterling.
Throughout 2013 a number of US journalists have been issued with subpoenas and pressured to reveal off-the-record sources they relied upon, which prompted some activists to call for a media shield law to protect journalists’ sources and thousands of internet-involved organizations to organize protest against massive electronic surveillance.
In 2012, the US fell even lower, to 47th position, after tumbling 27 positions – a result of a series of arrests of high-profile journalists during the Occupy Wall Street protests.
Freedom of speech in Britain, a close US ally, by comparison, was viewed as less restricted, with the country in 33rd place. The UK fell back three places after the exposure of deep collaboration between American and British security and intelligence services in suppressing the freedom of the press.
While UK’s Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ) agency actually taught American NSA how to conduct online espionage, Britain has been evaluated quite mildly, only suffering a minor decline in the index. The only incident mentioned by the RWB was the detention of David Miranda, the partner of ex-Guardian journalist Glenn Greenwald who revealed NSA spy programs.
World’s best countries for press freedom*
9. New Zealand
World’s worst countries for press freedom*
171. Lao People’s Democratic Republic
173. Islamic republic of Iran
177. Syrian Arab Republic
179. Democratic People’s Republic of Korea