The United States did not live up to the promise of the First Amendment last year, “far from it,” sinking to 46th in global press freedom rankings, a respected international nonprofit group said Wednesday.
The U.S. plummeted 13 slots to 46th overall “amid increased efforts to track down whistle-blowers and the sources of leaks,” Reporters Without Borders warned in an annual report.
“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 organization said.
The group, known by its French initials, RSF, also cited the Department of Justice’s seizure of Associated Press telephone records and a court’s pressure on New York Times reporter James Risen to testify against a CIA staffer accused of leaking classified information.
“The whistle-blower is clearly the enemy in the U.S.,” 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.”
It’s “a clear strategy of the administration” to “avoid any other version than the official version on what the administration is doing,” Halgand said.
Overall, RSF said in its report, “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,” the group said.
So who does a better job than the U.S. of protecting press freedoms?
Here, in order of rank, starting with No. 1 Finland: Finland, the Netherlands, Norway, Luxembourg, Andorra, Liechtenstein, Denmark, Iceland, New Zealand, Sweden, Estonia, Austria, Czech Republic, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Jamaica, Canada, Poland, Slovakia, Costa Rica, Namibia, Belgium, Cape Verde, Cyprus, Uruguay, Ghana, Australia, Belize, Portugal, Suriname, Lithuania, Britain, Slovenia, Spain, Antigua and Barbuda, Latvia, El Salvador, France, Samoa, Botswana, South Africa, Trinidad and Tobago, Papua New Guinea and Romania.
Italy was 49th. Israel was 96th. Afghanistan was 128th. Russia was 148th. China was 175th.