Reporters Without Borders annually ranks countries based on how they maintain freedom of the press. In a ranking of 180 countries, the United States now stands at number 46. Public opinion can best be summed up by The Atlantic, “At least the birthplace of the first amendment managed to come in one spot ahead of Haiti.”
According to the World Press Freedom Index of 2014, reasons for the United States’ low ranking this year include the treatment and reaction to Edward Snowden after he revealed details regarding the NSA. Reporters Without Borders, the organization responsible for releasing the index, also cited the unusually harsh sentences dolled out to Bradley Manning and Barrett Brown as reasons for the results.
Reporters Without Borders General Secretary, Christophe Deloire stated, “Barrett Brown is not a hacker, he is not a criminal…. [he was] merely doing his professional duty by looking into the Stratfor emails, an affair of public interest. The sentence of 105 years in prison that he is facing is absurd and dangerous…Threatening a journalist with a possible century-long jail sentence is a scary prospect for journalists investigating the intelligence government contractor industry.”
The report also states “…the heritage of the 1776 constitution was shaken to its foundation during George W. Bush’s two terms…there has been little improvement under Barack Obama…rather than pursuing journalists, the emphasis has been on going after their sources.”
Additionally, the report dubbed 2013 as the “year of the Associated Press scandal” in which the Department of Justice seized the AP’s phone records.
The New York Daily News reported the framework on which the World Press Freedom Index results are based. The “nongovernmental organizations” in each country answer a questionnaire based on “pluralism, media independence, environment and self-censorship, legislative framework, transparency and infrastructure.”
This drop in the Index doesn’t come as surprise considering the international backlash that occured after Snowden outed the NSA last year. It seems general dissatisfaction with the government’s practice of both disseminating and withholding information ,on the part of the American people, has been affirmed and acknowledged.
Now that the United States has been called out on its treatment of the press are we likely to see a change in the way journalism is conducted?