The topic of discussion for this Freedom Friday concerns Freedom of the Press. This freedom is guaranteed in the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States but is threatened internationally today. According to the “2015 World Press Freedom Index” published by Reporters Without Borders, a non-profit organization, the conditions for free media on six continents became “dramatically worse” in 2014.
On Index list of nations, United States is ranked #49 out of 180 countries with a score of 24.41. This is quite the fall over the one year period of time as the USA was ranked #32 in 2013. It is also a long fall from the beginning year of the Index (2002) when the USA was ranked #17. The following explanation was provided in the Index.
“In the United States, 2014 was marked by judicial harassment of New York Times investigative reporter James Risen in connection with the trial of Jeffrey Sterling, a former CIA officer charged under the Espionage Act with giving him classified information. US journalists are still not protected by a federal shield law that would guarantee their right not to name their sources or reveal other confidential information about their work. Meanwhile, at least 15 journalists were arbitrarily arrested during clashes between police and demonstrators protesting against black teenager Michael Brown’s fatal shooting by a white police officer in Ferguson, Missouri.”
Helle Dale of The Heritage Foundation gave further explanation of the Index findings. “International journalism today is threatened by wars, lethal violence by non-state actors, brutal government censorship and economic crisis….
“Not surprisingly, there is a strong correlation between media freedom, political freedoms and economic freedom. In countries where individuals are able to exercise their freedom to create economic activity, according to The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom, the media also tend to function as watchdogs of government activity. In both categories, the majority of countries in the top are western democracies.
“Totalitarian and Communist states rank much further down, and at the bottom of the information list are `black holes,’ where independent information simply does not exist. Countries in this segment are from regions such as North Africa and the Middle East controlled by non-state terrorist groups like ISIS or Boko Haram….
“Defense of journalistic freedom should be at the heart of the information battle waged by free, democratic governments. The work of journalists remains essential for the functioning of free societies and the building of new democracies.”
James Risen, the harassed reporter, made the following comment about the repressive Obama administration: “The Obama Administration is the greatest enemy of press freedom in a generation” and added “Eric Holder leaves behind a wrecked First Amendment.”
This declining Freedom of the Press is compounded by the fact that the attempt of our government to take control of our alternative press, the Internet. Our government definitely wants to control the information that we hear! This “most transparent” of administrations is certainly opaque to us!